Worthwhile Jazz Deconstructions of Songs You Probably Know

danieltalsky | Reviews,Songs | Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

(note: None of the songs are actually ON the Jazz and 80's album, I just think it's a cool cover.  Also sex sells.  Not that I'm selling anything.)

I was just listening to this brand new Jazz album by the Vijay Iyer Trio, and on it they have a great cover of Micheal Jackson's Human Nature.  I love how they keep the song recognizable, but then evolve into their own exploration of the song's musical themes.  I think that a good jazz cover respects the original song, but still tears it apart and puts it back together again somehow.

It made me think of several songs that do something similar that I've come to appreciate over the years.

The Bad Plus is probably the most famous for their Smells Like Teen Spirit cover, which is great, but I'm partial to their amazing cover of the Tears For Fears song, Everybody Wants To Rule The World.

Of course I had to have a Beatles song, and there's no lack of Beatles covers of any genre in this world, but I particularly like the somewhat insane version of A Day In The Life by Grant Green.

Charlie Hunter's Come As You Are cover starts with the Smells Like Teen Spirit riff, but is in fact a groovy cover of the (slightly) lesser known song.

The rest, just enjoy.  I think every one has a little something special.

Listen as a playlist:

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/04-Human-Nature1.mp3,http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/01-Everybody-Wants-To-Rule-The-World.mp3,http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/05-A-Day-In-The-Life.mp3,http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/11-Live-to-Tell.mp3, http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/04-Come-As-You-Are.mp3,http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/01-Knives-Out.mp3,http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/03-Isobel.mp3|titles=Vijay Iyer Trio – Human Nature,The Bad Plus – Everybody Wants To Rule The World,Grant Green – A Day In The Life,Bill Frisell – Live to Tell,Charlie Hunter Trio – Come As You Are,Brad Mehldao Trio – Knives Out,Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey – Isobel]

Or listen to the songs individually:

Human Nature (Micheal Jackson) as covered by the Vijay Iyer Trio

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/04-Human-Nature1.mp3|titles=Vijay Iyer Trio – Human Nature]

Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Tears For Fears) as covered by The Bad Plus

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/01-Everybody-Wants-To-Rule-The-World.mp3|titles=The Bad Plus – Everybody Wants To Rule The World]

A Day in the Life (The Beatles) as covered by Grant Green

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/05-A-Day-In-The-Life.mp3|titles=Grant Green – A Day In The Life]

Live To Tell (Madonna) as covered by the Bill Frisell

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/11-Live-to-Tell.mp3|titles=Bill Frisell – Live to Tell]

Come As You Are (Nirvana) as covered by the Charlie Hunter Trio

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/04-Come-As-You-Are.mp3|titles=Charlie Hunter Trio – Come As You Are]

Day is Done (Radiohead) as covered by the Brad Mehldao Trio

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/01-Knives-Out.mp3|titles=Brad Mehldao Trio – Knives Out]

Isobel (Björk) as covered by Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/03-Isobel.mp3|titles=Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey – Isobel]

California is one of my favorite albums ever (Mr. Bungle)

danieltalsky | Albums,My Favorite Things (Classics),Reviews | Friday, April 13th, 2012

 

California is probably the most normal and approachable album Mike Patton (also of Faith No More) ever made, which is to say, it's one of the oddest and most off-putting albums most people will experience.

Mr. Bungle was Mike Patton's high school band, but me and my teenage friends didn't find out about him until Faith No More's epic song and video, Epic came out.  things explode, Mike Patton punches himself in the head, and a fish (evidently given to them by Björk?!) flops about in exquisite suffocation.  This song blew our minds, and it wasn't long before someone had a copy of the self-titled first album by Mr. Bungle.

Mr. Bungle (the album) is an insane free-jazz heavy-metal carnival.  We loved it mostly as a novelty album, with its hilarious porn samples and rollercoaster ride music, but it wasn't until years later that I heard California.

I think the two biggest influences on California are cheesy lounge music and surf-rock, but as always, Mr. Bungle sometimes (d)evolves into pure avant-garde noise.  While some of the songs are truly purely beautiful, most are some kind of wild ride.

Air-Conditioned Nightmare – This is a great song to start with because it inhabits all the madness, beauty and tormented Beach Boys ethos that the album creates.  The song begins with clattering percussion, and Mike Patton doing some singing that would have fit in on Pet Sounds.   Then, at about the :40 minute mark, it gets twisted, and there's a rapid-fire change to some perverse doo-wop-ing / surf-metal guitar / mechanical pleas to "get me out of this air-conditioned nightmare".   Then at about the 3:00 mark, acts sincere, as if he were just trying to sing a beautiful song the whole time, finally introducing the final theme of the song, asking sweetly "where's my rainbow?  where's my halo?"

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/04-The-Air-Conditioned-Nightmare.mp3|titles=Mr. Bungle – The Air-Conditioned Nightmare]

Pink Cigarette – Possibly the most straightforwardly gorgeous song on the whole album, Mike croons over vocal choruses and gentle surf rock, a tale of a cuckolded man contemplating impending suicide after his wife leaves him with only a pink cigarette on the bed:  "How can I forget that your lips were there?Your kiss goes everywhere, touches everything but me."  So perfectly pathetic and campy, but perhaps marred by the obvious heart monitor sounds at the end.

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/06-Pink-Cigarette.mp3|titles=Mr. Bungle – Pink Cigarette]

 Goodbye Sober Day – The album's closer, it's notable for it's appropriation of an Indonesian chanting style near the end.  After a spooky song cycle, all the air is sucked out of the song at about the 2:10 mark, and Mike Patton does his approximation of Kecak, a Balinese chant used partially to depict a war between Rama and the evil king Ravana (only like a heavy-metal version).

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/10-Goodbye-Sober-Day.mp3|titles=Mr. Bungle – Goodbye Sober Day]

None of Them Knew They Were Robots – I wish I knew enough about music to know what the hell is happening here.  I won't suffer to narrate all the twists and turns of this song but there's a lot to listen here, including a doomish chant of Deus absconditus  and Deus nullus deus nisi deus.  It's about science, religeon, nanotechnology, gnostic wisdom, god knows what else.

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/02-None-Of-Them-Knew-They-Were-Robots.mp3|titles=Mr. Bungle – None Of Them Knew They Were Robots]

Vanity Fair – I'll go out on a sweet note, cause "you're not human, you're a miracle!"

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/09-Vanity-Fair.mp3|titles=Mr. Bungle – Vanity Fair]

If this appeals to you at all, please get and listen to this whole album in all of it's gorgeous glory.  As far as I'm concerned, it's one for the ages.

Some Widely Loved Artists I Don't Love

danieltalsky | Reviews | Thursday, April 5th, 2012

I'm always so goddamned positive here on the Snob. I don't usually like to bother to write about things unless I love them, but I think it's worth mentioning that I don't in fact love everything. Plus, it's a critic's job to be contrary so, I'm going to give it a shot.

Elvis Costello

So many music lovers revere this guy to the stars, but sadly I feel like I have to force myself to listen to a whole album. My respect for Elvis just went up a couple of notches when I heard him cover Fiona Apple's amazing and amazingly underrated song I Know:

I could tell that he loved the song, and knew every word and inflection, and hit every single one of its incredible high points. It's not the first time I've thought "I should give Elvil Costello a chance" though.

To me he just sounds hopelessly dated, and nothing really makes his songwriting or performing stand out for me in a way that makes me want to listen to it.

Song I do actually like: Alison

Radiohead

OK, now I know this is going to be a divisive one. There's definitely some Radiohead I like. I know they're the ultimate in modern rock brilliance. I've really loved a lot of what they've done.

Who would have every guessed that a band destined to become a one-hit-wonder from Creep, would switch it up and become one of the most universally acknowledged rock success geniuses ever.

When I put on OK, Computer, one of their undisputed masterworks, all I can think is "Goddamn, can this dude whine!" I feel like he generated this whole generation of first world problem whiners who think intelligently howling about the injustices and plastic-ness of the world is the highest of art.

Sometimes liking music has to do with wanting to inhabit the psychic landscape it creates. I rarely seem to want to live in Radioheadland.

Song I do actually like: Reckoner

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/07-Reckoner.mp3|titles=Radiohead – Reckoner]

R.E.M.

These guys blew my mind when I was first aware of them, which wasn't until I was 15 and videos started popping up on MTV. I wasn't sure whether to like or hate Losing My Religion when it came out (ended up liking it) or Stand / Shiny Happy People (ended up hating it).

I've tried to go back and listen to some of their classic College Rock era albums like Eponymous and Life's Rich Pageant. Much like Elvis Costello I just felt like these guys were outdated by the time I got to them. I liked it, but people seemed to regard their old stuff with a certain level of worship that I just could never comprehend.

Song I actually like: Fall on Me

Jay-Z

I didn't actually realize how huge and ubiquitous Jay-Z was until well after his prime. Now, his sad, late career verses sound pretty pathetic next to Kanye West at the absolute top of his songwriting game. There's Kanye talking absolutely insane shit, always something new, while Jay-Z is still playing up the fact that he used to sell crack in another lifetime and that he's really huge.

Yeah, back in the day he wrote some good songs on Blueprint and The Black Album for sure. But even then, I just can't quite fathom how he managed to become this unbelievable multi-platinum success. He does have that wide, expansive voice, and his lyrics are never too challenging.

Song I actually like: Takeover

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/02-Takeover.mp3|titles=Jay-Z – Takeover]

Queen

I want to love Queen, I really do. I love the idea of flamboyant gay rockers doing operatic imaginative way-before-its-time rock and blowing apart the world. I love plenty of their anthems. I, too, watched Wayne's World and thought, "Holy crap, I've heard that song before I but I didn't realize what a mega-world-destroying beast it was!"

I love all the talk about fat bottomed girls riding bicycles. I love that a band with a gay lead singing became the stadium stomper for America's most red-blooded manly sport.

However, when I listen to an actual album, the pomp and bombast just overwhelm the actual songs for me. They're vamping and camping with a million things going on at once like some grand poncy circus.

Song I actually like: Killer Queen

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/02-Killer-Queen.mp3|titles=Queen – Killer Queen]

Neil Young

I tried to find this old comic from Seattle's The Stranger newspaper where Neil Young says something like, "You business fellas worry about doing what you're best at: making money, and I'll go back to doing when I'm best at: warbling like an old goose."

There is no doubt that Neil is a prolific and powerful songwriter. I hear his recent album about an electric car was really good.

He is clearly a passionate and insightful hippie who's worked with some incredibly talented people and can obviously make magic with just himself and a guitar.

Only one problem, I could just never bring myself to put on one of his albums again. He is someone I have actively tried to like and "get". I had Harvest Moon on vinyl, I tried to get into After The Gold Rush and Tonight's The Night, but I couldn't quite get over the goose warble.

Song I actually like: Heart of Gold

Win Me Over?

Do you want to change my mind on any of these artists? Pick me out a 3 song playlist and send it to me for any of these artists and I'll give it a shot.

Snob Shorties

danieltalsky | Reviews,Songs | Sunday, February 26th, 2012

I've been loving Grimes (gorgeous 80's throwback beats with lovely choral-like singing),

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/02-Genesis.mp3|titles=Grimes – Genesis]

Future Islands (clangy rock band with a singer who has a unique, passionate growl),

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/01-On-The-Water.mp3|titles=Future Islands – On The Water]

Emika (totally sexy, dirty singing and non-boring electronic music),

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/01-3-Hours.mp3|titles=Emika – 3 Hours]

Wye Oak (passionate female singer and music that alternates between mellow pop and total guitar squall.  so pretty and personal),

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/05-Civilian.mp3|titles=Wye Oak – Civilian]

White Denim (a really cool, creative rock and roll band.  this is one of their mellower songs) also has a cool website,

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/04-Street-Joy.mp3|titles=White Denim – Street Joy]

Metronomy (bratty little beach rock songs with a sweet singer.  if you like that Gotye song then you'll like these guys),

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/04-The-Look.mp3|titles=Metronomy – The Look]

Eleanor Friedburger (a folk-singer who used to sing with her brother for The Fiery Furnaces.  now she just writes clever songs that put me in a good mood),

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/02-Inn-Of-The-Seventh-Ray.mp3|titles=Eleanor Friedburger – Inn Of The Seventh Ray]

and Danny Brown (a nasty rapper, with a rap about his love for licking kitties).

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/06-I-Will.mp3|titles=Danny Brown – I Will]

I've been loving TV shows like Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, Archer, and Downton Abbey.

I've been loving New York restaurants like Peaches, Saraghina, brgr, Kennedy Fried Chicken, crazy Caribbean places, M. Shanghai Bistro, Tipsy Parson, and Rachel's.

I've been loving movies like Days of Heaven, Pina 3D, and Temple Grandin.

I've even seen a real broadway show: Venus in Fur.

Maybe some day I'll even write about some of that stuff.

Don't Tell Me How To Hold My Nuclear Bomb (says Van Hunt)

danieltalsky | Albums,Reviews | Friday, November 11th, 2011

Van Hunt's new album What Were You Hoping For? is in the very early stages of rocking my world.  It's a little bit Funkadelic, a little bit Prince, a little bit Of Monreal.  Ok, and maybe a little bit Lenny Kravitz?  It's funky, sweet, bratty, smart, and I listen to it every day, which is something I haven't done in a while.

The line in the title comes from the song Plum, where he sings:

Don't tell my how to hold my nuclear bomb

Until you've resisted urge to love one

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/04-van_hunt-plum.mp3|titles=Van Hunt – Plum]

Or the spectacularly rocking Watching You Go Crazy is Making Me Lose My Mind.

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/02-van_hunt-watching_you_go_crazy_is_driving_me_insane.mp3|titles=Van Hunt – Watching You Go Crazy Is Driving Me Insane]

Van Hunt has a lot to offer.  His guitar playing is inspiring, and he can sing a sweet-as-honey neo-soul growl while he sings about the joys and pitfalls of cross-dressing.

Ok, one slow one, just to show how pretty his little croak is.  This is Moving Targets:

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/06-van_hunt-moving_targets.mp3|titles=Van Hunt – Moving Targets]

 

Chinatown Secrets

danieltalsky | NYC,Restaurants,Reviews | Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Walk down Bowery from the Lower East Side and watch as the signs turn to Chinese.

and things are marketed a little differently,

walk into what looks like a little alley with hipsters milling about and see if you can find 9 Doyers St.

so you can walk into the (not really) secret bar of Apothéke, an amazing, fancy cocktail bar.

Notice the chandelier made from flasks.

The drinks are $15 but they're worth it.

The Elegant Perversity of Dogtooth

danieltalsky | Films,Reviews | Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Dogtooth, the 2009 Greek film, is not going to be for everyone.  In a sense, it's a slow dark comedy horror movie, which happens to be a genre I like.  Movies like The Shining, Let There Be Blood, and Drag Me To Hell, all fall into this category for me as well.  There's a little blood in Dogtooth and if you can't stomach a few disturbing images, then this is not the movie for you.  Mom, please do not watch this movie.

For me though, Dogtooth does a lot right.  The best thing a movie can do is make me intensely curious about what's happening and how it's going to turn out from the very first moment.  Then as the state of things is slowly revealed, retain that sense of total curiosity.  Dogtooth did that.

Families have their own weird myths and in-jokes and this movie kind of takes that idea and blows it out to the highest degree.  Almost the entire movie takes place in a beautiful greek home out in the boonies of Greece, since the three teenage children who live there are not allowed to leave the premises.  The idea seems sweetly innocent, and indeed the beautiful children play many innocent and beautiful games, even though enduring pain seems to be a common theme of many of them.

As the movie progresses though it becomes clear just how twisted and perverse their upbringing has been, and that the parents are willfully doing it, for whatever reason.  In my opinion though, it never devolves into total slasher nightmare.  These teenagers natural aggression and sexuality just doesn't have anywhere to go, and it bubbles out in increasingly inappropriate ways.

As you might be able to guess, there are serious sexual overtones, and some of the sexual scenes are pretty explicit.  I doubt this movie would have been able to receive an R rating in the US.  If you liked movies like Secretary, then it's very possible you'd find this movie hot, in spite of the twisted nature of its sexual rhythm.

Plus, it's on Netflix on Demand for the moment, so you can just whip it open in your browser right now and watch it.  Also, here's the trailer, but if you're willing to see it without watching the trailer, I recommend it, since the trailer spoils a bunch of the surprises.  It's a movie best left to unfold at its own pace.

Video From My NYC Birthday Brother

danieltalsky | Songs | Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Met an old Seattle friend. She dragged me home to do kitchen counter-top karaoke with her housemates. (Hi Sunde! (pictured above))

One of them, Thomas had my same birthday (May 9th) and in our drunken YouTube-ings, he brought up this awesome video from the early 70's of French pop star Adriano Celentano hamming it up to total nonsense in this video. I've watched it like a dozen times already.  Turns out this guy has been huge in Italy for 40 years, and he's been in movies from La Dolce Vita to playing satan in Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ.

Witness the 70's goodness:

 

 

Indie One Hit Wonders

danieltalsky | Reviews,Songs | Sunday, May 15th, 2011

These aren't even hits, technically.

I listen to a whole metric crapload of new music, and I'm really diligent about marking songs with a star-rating when something really pops out for me.  Later, I go back and see that plenty of times only one song stood out to me.  These songs are often spectacular in some way, but the rest of the album just doesn't even register as something I want to write about.

These are some songs I've totally fallen in love with but ultimately can't recommend the rest of the album.

First up is indie darling Bear in Heaven, from their album Beast Rest Forth Mouth.  They were indie darlings last year, but they just sounded generic to me.  However, this song You Do You just sounds like some amazing modern Genesis song (minus Phil Collins):

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/03-You-Do-You.mp3|titles=Bear in Heaven – You Do You]

Next is from Blackroc, a vanity project by otherwise awesome The Black Keys working with a bunch of otherwise awesome rappers like Mos Def, RZA, and Q-Tip.  Sounded great but nothing really quite moved me except for the back-from-the-grave collaboration with some old recording from Ol' Dirty Bastard and a nice verse by Ludacris.  It's a crass rap called Coochie as in "That Coochie got me so confused I don't know what to do."  Note the reverb-dripping Black Keys licks.

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/01-Coochie-ODB-and-Ludacris.mp3|titles=Blackroc – Coochie (ODB and Ludacris)]

When this song, Fortune Teller by Forest Fire came on, I was so convinced this album was going to blow me away.   It didn't.  But I still love this song about "melting faces with gatlin' gun social skills," that asks the musical question, "why not kill someone you hate?"  I've been feeling like this socially a lot lately.

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/02-Fortune-Teller.mp3|titles=Forest Fire – Fortune Teller]

Really this whole album by Citay is not bad at all, but nothing else on the album quite carries the spirit of an Angelic Choir led by a leaderless Van Halen.  Check the lovely instramental Careful With That Hat:

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/01-Careful-With-That-Hat.mp3|titles=Citay – Careful With That Hat]

Okay, this song is a tour de force.  I can't even believe someone good enough to do a song like this would do the rest of the songs on his album On Blue Fog as kind of a regular folk album.  The guy is Andew Ethier, and the one hit wonder is a song called On Lies.  I am not shitting you, this song is amazing top to bottom.  Amazing guitar work, amazing Dylanesque singing that runs from growl to howl like necessary, and a spectacular sax solo near the end.  This is a 6:15 journey that I wouldn't mind being on the soundtrack to my autobiography:

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/06-On-Lies.mp3|titles=Andrew Ethier – On Lies]

Anyone else have any indie one hit wonders to recommend?   Disagree and think one of these artists has other awesome stuff?  Like or hate one of these songs?

Let me know.

Life's a Bitch and then…

danieltalsky | Films,Reviews | Monday, April 25th, 2011

In the nearly final final scene of the spectacular movie Fish Tank, perhaps even more amazing because it's on Netflix on Demand right now, the lead actress, played by the magnificent Katie Jarvis dances with her little sister and mom to Nas' Life's a Bitch (which you can play while you read the rest of the review):

[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/03-Lifes-A-Bitch.mp3|titles=Nas – Life's A Bitch]

Dancing is an important part of the movie in its own awkward way, so her dancing with her more innocent sister and less innocent drunken mom ties the whole thing together.

Usually this kind of British poverty stricken youth thing gets kind of tiresome for me, but this movie is something special.  Its acting and writing is immediate and streamlined.  When it's sexy, it's sexy without apology.  It impressed me with its first moments, and I enjoyed it all the way through.

Check the trailer:

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