Month: February 2018

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

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Oh yeah. Welcome to this weeks barrage of New Wonders. Once again it’s a candy store and we’re all kids. You can listen on Soundcloud and/or Spotify: we’ve got you covered. And in the words of Mr. P.R.Nelson, “life it ain’t real funky, unless it’s got that pop”…

Listen on the Soundcloud:

 

Listen on the Spotify:



 

 

Soul Unhinged : The Art of “Melisma”

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At some point in the very late 80’s a vocal plague spread across R & B and pop music. The name of this affliction was “Melisma”. “Melisma” is of course defined as singing a single syllable of text while moving between several notes. And while Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston, 2 outrageously gifted singers, were the initial purveyors, to these ears Boys II Men were the real starting point as far as spreading the plague, the true guilty party ( “Motownphilly” excepted, because shit, who doesn’t love “Motownphilly”). Anyway, they employed the technique on literally every track they released, and once they hit it big, that was it. It was the signal for every up and coming R & B group to feature ” the Melisma” on what felt like every single song on the radio. Screw economy and grace, gratuitous vocal runs became the norm. And people loved it. “I Will Always Love You”, “What A Girl Wants” and of course the Boyz/Mariah collaboration “One Sweet Day” ( and an interminable number of others) were all beyond massive hits. The standard was set forever. The pop delicacy of a Mary Wells vocal, like the kind you’d hear on “My Guy” was instantly an artifact from a bygone era.

The style reached it’s peak of manifestation on American Idol, and a little bit later, on The Voice, and continues to fester to this day, generally in the most predictable, immaculately produced, and technically manipulated ways. Now I know this all sounds very “get off my lawn” but I honestly don’t hate “Melisma”, it’s just that this slick, show-offy version of it feels like just that . The only thing I can liken it to is a painting that looks just like a photograph : it becomes all about technique and not so much about content, which makes the art feel kind of empty…the fact is “Melisma” coupled with unbridled, unrefined, imperfect emotion can make for some amazing, spiritual, mind blowing listening. Let’s go back in time for a minute….

Linda Jones was both Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight’s favorite singer. Linda’s recording career was short, running from 1964 to 1972, when she unexpectedly passed away at the far too young age of 27. Within that time, she achieved only middling success ( couple of hits on the R & B charts in the late sixties , the biggest being “Hypnotized”, which was also top 20 on the Billboard pop chart). While she never made what would be considered a classic album within that time, she did kick out some incredible singular songs that positively beggar belief. As in, the vocal performances were nuts. Listen to this insanity :

 

I know, that thing should come with a warning attached. In less than 4 minutes Linda has crushed the entire earth into a dust like powder. I’ll be honest, the first time I heard this, it made me laugh because it was just soooo over the top…but I immediately loved it, because it felt lived. You believe Linda. That’s “Melisma” in the hands of a master. That’s technique and content in one giant heart-shaped mass.

Then there’s this. McKinley Mitchell’s vocal on “Town I Live in” starts oh so sweetly, full of longing, and lonely love…but then about halfway through it turns into this raw, raspy, desperate monster and obliterates everything in it’s path. It happens so suddenly, and jarringly it’s like being woken up from a deep sleep by someone throwing cold water on your face.  This song was recorded in freakin’ 1962, and still sounds weird and off kilter in 2018: a perfect marriage of rough and smooth that transcends time. Check it out:

I know. It’s nuts right? 19-freakin-62.

Screw the visuals. These were records. And yes, in some way the relics of a bygone era…but lord, aren’t they beautiful ? Has anything on The Voice/Idol ever come near these ? Okay “East Coast Family”, as you were….

Mellow Gang “Temps”

“Temps” is one giant, melodic, shoegazey tornado, all fat sad synth, and crying guitar twang spinning together under neon lights. And it features a positively monumental vocal from Harriet Joseph that’s sure to get you dizzy if you play it loudly. Utterly swoon-worthy and special.

Maria Kelly featuring Ailbhe Reddy “Threads”

A gorgeous collaboration/duet from 2 amazing artists in their own respective rights, “Threads” is the perfect evocation of complete and utter misery, which is to say, yes, it’s that good. All lopsided love, wasted hope and dust enveloped in delicate acoustics and distant playground sounds and…it’s just grim…yet utterly addictive and beautiful at the same time. It’s that old painful wisdom nugget in song form i.e. the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Not a million miles from the fine Jessica Lea Mayfield in tone and timbre, it may take a couple of listens to succumb to it’s fragile airiness, but once you give in, it’ll stay with you for real.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

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Each week we assemble 2 playlists of what are meant to be the same tracks on Soundcloud and Spotify so you can listen where it’s most convenient…but this is one of those weeks where I’d recommend listening to the Soundcloud one because there are about 6 more songs there than are on the Spotify list ( they are tracks that are not yet available on Spotify).

No pressure but the missing tracks are really freakin’ good and don’t want you to miss anything…but leaving the decision in your hands…now go rock yourself.

Soundcloud:

Spotify:

Floor Eight “Plan H”

Okay, not sure what the hell this is. One minute it’s Steely Dan. The next Queen. Then suddenly, and I do mean suddenly, it’s Alice in Chains. Then it’s all of them at once. Basically it’s a song that’s ingested far more sugar than anyone should have in a day. The vocal is whiny, petulant and over the top, and there are about a billion hooks…and it’s ridiculously awesome. You’ve been warned.

Tégui “Picasso” ( prod.Psycho)

Transportive, sinewy and slinky R & B, with a warm and beautiful vocal, and some chilly synth washes that instantly brought to mind Ryuichi Sakamoto’s finer moments ( think his “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence soundtrack). Tégui also serves up a sweet spoken word break that triggered another 80’s memory, that being Grace Jones’s sublime declaration within her own classic “Slave to the Rhythm”. This is one gorgeous rainy day of a song, an absolute beauty.

Steegs “Come Through”

Up to this point Steegs has made her name via some killer covers, everything from JT’s”SexyBack” to The Cure’s “Lovesong” to St.Vincent’s “Los Ageless”, blues-ing the crap out of them with her gigantic, emotive voice while playing some pretty bitchin’ guitar but this, her debut single, is in a another universe entirely. “Come Through” is a fierce hybrid of Garbage, Britney Spears, and Depeche Mode’s “In Your Room”. It’s weird, cynical, epic pop candy with some ballsy guitar riffing on the bottom and yes, hard to evict from your head once you’ve been exposed to it. The song’s refrain goes “Chase the things I’ll never get, and he’s the reason I’m depressed”. Fuck yeah.

 

Why Bonnie “Practice”

Out of Austin and into your heart, Why Bonnie offer up some homespun wisdom in this  faded pop snapshot. A laid back groove enveloped in gently chiming guitar, and featuring one sweet little chorus, Why Bonnie remind us there’s no wasted time, it’s all practice. This is off the new EP ‘In Water” and it is exceptionally handsome. It’s also reminiscent of a wonderful sleeper from back in 2004 by A Girl Called Eddy which we are gonna recommend as well ( see below).

While we’re here, might as well share another track off the aforementioned EP, the jangling and sentimental “Made of Paper” which is also pretty fine:

And if you feel like going back in time, check out A Girl Called Eddy for more glorious chime:

 

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

Reindeers-in-the-Icelandic-highlandWelcome to this weeks New Wonders. We’ve been inundated with cool stuff this year, no doubt about it. Gonna write about/single out a couple of these tracks in next day or so, but in the meantime, indulge in everything. You can listen on Soundcloud and/or Spotify: we’ve got you covered. Live it up…

Soundcloud :

Spotify: