Tag Archive: “past sounds”

This is Past Sounds. Every Friday Ghettoblaster Magazine is looking back and finding great music from various eras. This week we present some of the best music videos for great songs because, why not?  Below are songs and videos that sound and look great no matter what decade they’re played in. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.

The Marked Men – Fix My Brain (Fix My Brain, Dirtnap Records) 2005


Texas punk band The Marked Men made music informed by old school punk rock, but with a bit of a twist.  Their ability to create such fast and ferocious pop songs is really remarkable and truly what set them apart from other similar bands.  Fix My Brain is the title track from arguably their best album and the song is one of the many highlights on an absolutely stellar album.  Fix My Brain rips through hard guitar riffs, relentless drumming and wonderful melodies, doing more in two and a half minutes than a lot of bands can do in twice the time.  It sounds like the Ramones drank a ton of caffeine, got much more aggressive and decided to have a more intricate arrangement.  All in all, this is one of the best pop punk songs around and proves that The Marked Men were truly playing in a league of their own.


 

Iron and Wine – Grey Stables (Woman King EP, Sub Pop Records) 2005


Iron and Wine’s Woman King EP sits at an interesting spot in their history.  Their first two albums were largely lo-fi and somber affairs and then they ended up pivoting to a much bigger sound with different influences and more jam band tendencies, especially live.  However, in between these two identities sits this EP and it is probably the best batch of songs they’ve ever put together.  The entire EP is worth a listen and it is really hard to pick out the best track, but Grey Stables shows off the intricate subtlety that Woman King operates in.  The melody of Grey Stables is a real stand out, which should surprise no one, but where the song really transcends is in the surrounding music.  Again, this is intricate and subtle at the same time, layering acoustic guitar, strings, percussion and some ambient touches together in such a seamless way.  In Grey Stables you can hear where they had been and where they were going and it makes you wish they would have lingered in this territory a little longer.


 

Eric B and Rakim – I Know You Got Soul (Paid in Full, Def Jam) 1987


I Know You Got Soul features some of the most solid drums in hip hop history.  They really propel the song forward and just sound awesome, transcending the “dated” label that plagues so much of 80s hip hop.  Eric B and Rakim’s album Paid in Full is one of the most enjoyable classic hip hop albums and I Know You Got Soul is a true standout from the album.  Both Eric B and Rakim are the best versions of themselves over the course of this track, as Rakim’s seemingly never ending flawless delivery flows over Eric B’s solid beat and scratches.  It’s just a great example of what makes some 80s hip hop so much fun to listen to.


Lawnmower – Tetherball (Major Head Injury, Save Your Generation Records) 2015


Full disclosure: I am friends with members of the band Lawnmower, but please don’t let that take anything away from how good this song is.  Tetherball is one of my favorite rock songs, from its grungy beginning to catchy chorus and awesome backing vocals, it’s just a joy to listen to.  It seems like it should be a lost classic 90s indie rock song, as it definitely transports listeners back to the heyday of indie rock.  Everything is clicked into high gear and hits all the right notes: the guitars cutting out to that awesome chugging bass, propulsive drumming with some really great fills, and then the song is over before you know it, leaving you wanting more.  It is an exciting song from an up and coming band, so do yourself a favor and get to know Lawnmower.  They’re really great and talented guys, believe me.

This is Past Sounds. Every Friday Ghettoblaster Magazine is looking back and finding great music from various eras. This week we present some of the best music videos for great songs because, why not?  Below are songs and videos that sound and look great no matter what decade they’re played in. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.

The Avalanches – Frontier Psychiatrist (Since I Left You, Sire Records) 2000


In 2000 The Avalanches released Since I Left You, an absolutely classic album with just around an hour of sample based summery dance music. It’s the type of album you really have to listen to from start to finish in a single sitting as the songs bleed together, providing an astounding DJ set.  Frontier Psychiatrist is not the best song on the album by any means, but the song, and even more so it’s music video, are a very good representation of what the album is all about: manic joy.  This is my favorite music video ever and it is utter chaos.  Looking for a grandma drummer?  How about a turtle with the face of your grandfather?  There are awesome looking horns, a strange parrot and so much more all on a single stage.  It simply is the best.


Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend (Body Talk, Konichiwa Records) 2010


Robyn took the indie pop world by storm in 2010, releasing three mini-albums and a full length collection of the best songs from these as well as some new songs. Everything she put out that year was fantastic and she has since become a staple for Hipster dance parties around the globe.  Call Your Girlfriend is a powerhouse pop song with a stellar music video.  The music for Call Your Girlfriend repeats itself, as do the lyrics, growing bigger and bigger each time until it culminates into an outright synth meltdown.  Likewise, the music video begins in a simple open warehouse with Robyn singing to the camera and dancing; however, over time the landscape changes a bit with great lighting and more involved dancing from Robyn.  The most impressive part of the video is that it is a single long tracking shot and Robyn nails the choreography the whole way through, making the video a visual delight.


Cut Copy – Need You Now (Zonoscope, Modular Recordings) 2011


Cut Copy is not necessarily a stuffy band but they had commanded a sort of stoic presence, especially during their live shows. Need You Now is the opening track on their great 2011 album Zonoscope and really set things off in the right direction.  It’s a fantastic driving song with a solid beat and shimmering synths in the same vein as New Order.  It’s not a playful song and Cut Copy had not been known as a playful band, which is what makes the music video for Need You Now so much fun.  It begins pretty normally with the band performing their song, but various athletes from several different sports show up and are captured on video in full gear, which is edited in a very cheesy and funny way.  Soon they are exchanging equipment, rushing the band’s playing area and eventually declaring love and war on one another.  It’s super fun and the fact that it came from Cut Copy makes it even better.


Lambchop – Gone Tomorrow (Mr. M, Merge Records) 2012


Gone Tomorrow is the opening track from the gorgeous album Mr. M, which was released by Lambchop, a band whose label describes them as “Nashville’s most f*cked up country band.” There’s nothing on this song that really points to their more sinister side, it is just a simply beautiful track.  Yet, that statement from the label does shed some light onto why the video for this slow, lovely song is full of local professional wrestling.  The pacing of the video matches the song and is a meditative and deliberate piece of art that captures wrestling moves the way you would capture ballerinas at a Julliard performance.  The combination of song, subject matter and video aesthetic is absolutely perfect, resulting in a seven minute video that leaves you wanting more.

Today is Women’s Equality Day so for this edition of Past Sounds we are featuring inspiring, daring, and revolutionary women of music spanning many genres and eras. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.

Nina Simone – Ain’t Got No / I Got Life (‘Nuff Said) 1968


This year Netflix teamed up with Lisa Simone Kelly, daughter of Nina Simone, to make a documentary chronicling the life of The High Priestess of Soul. I highly recommend watching  the documentary if you don’t know about the amazing life she lead. At the time of this recording Nina was already a star but she was incomplete until she turned the focus of her music towards issues of injustice and inequality, and ultimately becoming an essential player in the Civil Rights Movement. In the movie this performance follows Nina talking about how she wanted to help black people connect with their own identity and to be proud of who they are. This song is a medley of two songs from the musical hair that Nina combined to make the message even more powerful. This performance of the song is particularly moving because she switches the lyrics and there is a glorious heartbreaking moment when she belts, “Ain’t got no love,” just before breaking into “I Got Life”. Nina was brilliant, bold, passionate, a phenomenal pianist, a unbelievable singer, and an unmatched entertainer, she set an amazing example for women everywhere. She was one of a kind, an original individual and she loved herself, dark parts and all. Though the message of this song was perfect for the time and the people it was written for, the message of loving yourself just how you are, transcends time, race, and gender. There are people in this world that tell people they are less valuable because of many reasons, whether its their sex or their race or the amount of money in their bank account, and to those people all you need to say is, “I got my arms, I got my hands, I got my fingers, got my legs, I got my feet, I got my toes, I got my liver, got my blood, I got life.”


Dolly Parton – Just Because I’m A Woman (Just Because I’m A Woman) 1968


The same year that Nina Simone was fighting for her rights Dolly Parton took a stand for feminism with this record. The chorus says it all, “My mistakes are no worse than yours just because I’m a woman.” This resonates even today as men can get away with murder (literally) and women are scrutinized and abused for their faults. It can’t be emphasized enough how brave this was for Dolly to do in the 60’s which was in some ways the golden age of sexism and racism. Artist like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn broke the mold of the good country girl who wouldn’t do what men told them, instead they used their music to fight against the idea of being what a woman “should” be.


Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl (Pussy Whipped) 1993


You can’t have a list of female equality with Riot Grrrl founder and feminist punk pioneer Kathleen Hanna. I was so close to putting Apt #5 from Kathleen’s solo album Julie Ruin, but then I thought if we’re talking about Kathleen you want to see her jumping around on stage and screaming and being a Rebel Girl. Recently Kathleen talked about how she basically invented the term mansplaining before anyone knew it was thing, so I don’t intend to explain her thoughts and feelings in this song, but I will share some thoughts on her importance to the music world. It’s not hard to find a song about women’s equality in Kathleen’s catalog, just listen to any Bikini Kill song. In this song she sings about a girl who she wants to be(friend) but everything she says about the girl is true of her. In The Punk Singer, the rock doc about her life, her friends and contemporaries say things about her that basically mirror the lyrics of this song. No one had seen a girl look like her, act like her, sing like her, scream like her. Hanna set the stage for feminism as we know it, she was an important player in Third Wave Feminism. She used her music to help so many women who were abused, undervalued, and angry take a stand and fight for the rights and the treatment they deserve. Kathleen’s husband, Adam Horovitz from The Beastie Boys, described Hanna as “a force,” not just for feminism but her musical impact is also unbelievable. She had an effect on so many of her contemporaries, not just the Riot Grrrl bands like Bratmobile and Sleater-Kinney, but mainstream successes like Sonic Youth and Nirvana. You can hear her influence on artists like Karen O and modern female lead indie-rock band’s like Sleight Bells and Alvvays. After an 8 year hiatus due to health problems Hanna started The Julie Ruin in 2013 and continues to make incredible music to this day. She is feminist icon and a true folk (actually punk) hero and some of the great female artist of our time would not be the same without her work.


Lauryn Hill – Doo Wap (That Thing) (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill) 1998


Lauryn Hill’s lead single off of her seminal solo album topped the charts and got her two Grammys, but the message is still vital decades later. In the song she speaks to young men and women warning them to watch out for guys or girls who are “only about that thing,” whether that thing is sex or money, she urges them not so let themselves being taken advantage of. Ms. Hill tells girls, “respect is a minimum,” and one the most powerful lines in the song is, “It’s silly when girls sell their souls because it’s in.” Our culture promotes so many things that don’t actually matter and it is so easy for girls to fall into habits that disrespect and undervalue them without realizing the magnitude of their actions. Women are casually mistreated, and especially in black communities the “money takin’ and heart breakin'” mentality is very harmful to women. Lauryn Hill is just one example of a black woman who didn’t stand for it and made her way in hip hop which is a hugely male dominated artform. She is an inspiring leader and especially today the message of this song is desperately need among America’s youth, “Stop actin’ like boys and be men. How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?”


Jenny Lewis – Just One Of The Guys (The Voyager) 2014


Former Rilo Kiley Frontwoman and current amazing songwriter and performer, Jenny Lewis, not only has the gift of writing catchy, powerful music, but she is also a badass feminist soldier ( just look at the Che Guevera-esque garb she and her Nice As Fuck bandmates wear). Jenny also has a great sense of humor, which is apparent in this quirky yet powerful, star-studded music video. With the help of Kristen Stewart, Brie Larson, and Anne Hathaway, Lewis mocks male stupidity and insensitivity, speaks of the struggles of being an independent woman, and ultimately celebrates womanhood with the final empowering verse, “I’m not gonna break for you, I’m not gonna pray for you, I’m not gonna pay for you, that’s not what ladies do.” Jenny Lewis is one of the most important and talented musicians working right now, she’s Stevie Nicks mixed with Kathleen Hanna mixed with Joni Mitchell. If you haven’t delved into Rilo Kiley, Nice As Fuck, or her solo work, do yourself a favor and get familiar.


Jamila Woods – Blk Girl Soldier (HEAVN) 2016


I know this one is very recent but a month ago is still the past, and I couldn’t get Jamila Woods out of my head when talking about revolutionary women of music. People talk about Nina Simone and Kathleen Hanna giving a voice to people who didn’t have one, that is exactly what Jamila Woods is currently doing. Not only is her music innovative and addictive and beautiful, but she is speaking for one of the most marginalized groups in our country who should be one of the most celebrated groups in our country: black women. Speaking as a white man, it is so easy to be oblivious to the suffering of others in our society. When I hear Jamila sing a line like, “Look at what they did to my sister last century last week. They make her hate her own skin, treat her like a sin,” I’m reminded that there are people in this world who need music to say the things that others are tuning out. American’s want to be happy, that’s the “American dream,” so we often try to avoid unpleasantness, even though it’s unavoidable. When someone makes a powerful song saying, “this is what I’m living right now in this time, it’s not a history lesson, it’s not 12 Years a Slave or The Help, it’s real life in modern America,” that makes us wake up and pay attention (and if it doesn’t then you’ve got issues). Every line of this song is so powerful and she ends the song by listing women like Rosa Parks and Assata Shakur, designating them, “a freedom fighter and she taught us how to fight.” It is important for all of us to fight against these injustices, for so long people have gone to extreme lengths to keep women down, “but what they don’t understand is she don’t give up.” If you don’t listen to any other album this year listen to this one. Jamila’s voice is essential in the turbulent times in which we’re living. Jamila is a freedom fighter and she taught us how to fight.


 

This is Past Sounds. Every Friday Ghettoblaster Magazine is looking back and finding great music from various eras. Below are songs that sound great no matter what decade they’re played in. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.

Outkast – “Humble Mumble” (Stankonia, Arista Records) 2000


“Humble as a mumble in the jungle of shouts and screams” serves as both the hook for Humble Mumble and a good descriptor of the songs place in Outkast’s output. Stankonia is one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time and contains “B.O.B,” “Ms. Jackson,” and “So Fresh, So Clean” so it’s easy to overlook “Humble Mumble” in relation to the album as a whole, even though it deserves to be in the same conversation as those seminal hits. The song has so many quotable lines it seems unfair, from the introduction of “The funky engine that could” and asking “what’s your locomotive” to Andre 3000 saying “don’t discrimihate til you done read a book or two” to a critic who “thinks hip hop is only about guns and alcohol.” Lyrically it’s just a really fun song and it follows suit musically as well. It’s a song done in three movements, which are distinctive but still very cohesive as they all eventually blend together. It’s absolutely a song only Outkast could’ve made and I haven’t even mentioned that it features Erykah Badu yet, which is a treat all in itself.


 

Fleetwood Mac – “Storms” (Tusk, Warner Brothers) 1979


Tucked into Tusk, Fleetwood Mac’s most experimental album, “Storms” is a song that is easy to overlook. It’s a serene and heartbreaking song of lost love over a simple folky guitar sung wonderfully by Stevie Knicks. Yet, as is the case with Fleetwood Mac’s best songs, nothing is as simple as it seems. The chorus of “Storms” features some of their best harmonies, which is really saying a lot for this band. Slowly over time percussion and organ build ever so subtlety, resulting in an absolutely beautiful song. On the surface the lyrics seem to be your standard lost love song fare but Knicks’ emotive delivery packs more and more of a punch as the song goes on. Everything culminates together as Knicks sings: “But never ever been a blue calm sea / I have always been a storm” repeating “always been a storm” several times with each time more powerful than the last. Listening to this song is like sitting on a deck watching a slow storm roll in over an otherwise peaceful lake.


 

Matmos – “Tunnel” (The Marriage of True Minds, Thrill Jockey Records) 2013


Matmos has made a career out of gimmicks. This isn’t a negative thing by any means as their gimmicks have mostly paid off. They make experimental electronic music and normally operate within some put-upon-themselves framework for each album. They have an album built around sounds from surgical procedures, another inspired by old instruments and sounds that wouldn’t sound too out of place at a Renaissance festival and most recently an album made almost entirely out of sounds from a washing machine. The Marriage of True Minds, quite possibly their strongest album, took on a strong framework, yet is by far the most abstract they have worked within. They had people go into a sensory deprivation chamber while they transmitted the theme of the album to the subjects telepathically. They would then interview the subjects asking them what they heard or saw. Some would hum melodies, some would describe images and they took these recordings and based an album off of them. It’s a fascinating listen with some absolutely stunning songs. “Tunnel” is an obvious standout track even without the backstory of how it was conceived. Didgeridoo is set atop pulsating rhythms, bombastic funky guitar sounds and screeching synths in a truly fantastic way. Towards the middle of the song a male voice recording taken from the interview after one of the sensory deprivation sessions whispers “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel … But it isn’t daylight”, giving the song an absolutely chilling vibe as it continues.


 

Tyvek – “Wayne County Roads” (On Triple Beams, In the Red Records) 2012


People who have never had the pleasure of continuously having to drive in Wayne County Michigan really have no idea how cathartic it is to listen to a song that yells “Wayne County Roads” over and over as the chorus. They are quite terribly painful to deal with. Tyvek is a great five piece band who makes straight up rock music, which is refreshing in a time with so many genres and subgenres. The song is built around a couple of Television-esque catchy guitar riffs. Again, this is just great solid rock music from a totally Midwest band who has been making under known music for years. On the surface this is a pretty simple song about the roads that take you home but nothing in Wayne County is quite that easy.

 

This is Past Sounds. Every Friday Ghettoblaster Magazine is looking back and finding great music from various eras. Below are songs that sound great no matter what decade they’re played in. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.

Midlake – Some of Them Were Superstitious  (Bamnan and Silvercork) 2004


Midlake is a magical indie-rock band from Texas, founded in 1999 by a group of friends and jazz students. This band seems to be less known than they should be, their second album The Trials of Van Occupanther, is an indie-rock masterpiece, relating life in the colonial times to our modern world. Midlake uses  the same instruments as any rock band, but their music feels like it’s from another time. This song comes from their debut album and it embodies this concept, with lyrics like, “parading round the town square,” and “praising monocled men,” paints this picture of an almost medieval setting. The almost cartoonish synths bounce along in the verse and a swirling organ provides the base for the epic chorus. The songs shifts to a sauntering piano and flute as the lyrics, “So soon, so soon, so long, and when you’re gone, you’re gone, and life it hurts for someone, you’re someone.” Midlake is masterful at tapping into ageless emotions while transporting the listener to another time and place.


The Beatles – Rocky Racoon (The Beatles [The White Album]) 1968


There’s this band from Liverpool they’re super underrated, they’re called The Beatles. Let’s face it folks there’s not too much more to be said about the biggest band in the history of music and the most highly regarded album of their career, but this song is so goofy and fun it deserves to be revisited. Just like Midlake transported us to olden times, this song takes us to the old west, describing and love triangle that leads to a shootout. Paul McCartney wrote this song while in India with John Lennon and folk legend Donovan. It was intended as a pastiche “spoofing the folk singer” with some fondness. This a dark comedy of a folk song, when that ragtime piano kicks in you can’t help but sing along, “D’do d’do d’do do do do, come on, Rocky boy.”


Outkast feat. Killer Mike – The Whole World (Big Boi and Dre Present…) 2001 


Before the Bernie rallies, before Run The Jewels, before R.A.P. Music, the world was introduced to Killer Mike with this song. When I was 11 years old this was my jam (though I had to listen to the clean version). Ragtime-type piano appears on this song, spun into a jazzy hip hop beat, kind of foreshadowing the style Outkast would explore in Idlewild a few years later. (sidenote: this song also has one of the best “to each their own” type phrases, “whatever floats your boat or finds your lost remote”). In tandem with a goofy video, this song exists in a creepy circus setting, making a statement on the nature of entertainment, “and the whole world loves it when you’re in the news // and the whole world loves it when you sing the blues.”  It’s odd and fun, business as usual for Outkast, while being very insightful, it seems to be even more relevant now than it was 15 years ago.


Blind Pilot – One Red Thread (3 Rounds and a Sound) 2009


In celebration of Blind Pilot’s third album, And Then Like Lions out today on Expunged Records, I thought I would go back to the song that made me fall in love with the Portland folk rock septet. This song exemplifies Blind Pilot’s entire style, heart-wrenchingly honest and insightful folk songs with melodies that are absurdly catchy and beautiful. The subtle strumme of the acoustic guitar and gentle tap of a snare drive this song, until the slow soft chorus, which eventually regains momentum and ends in a restrained crescendo. This is a lovely song about finding your way in life. Much like OutKast’s song the chorus here captures a simple but powerful truth, “man, oh man, you can do what you want.”


Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Maid of Orleans (


Going along with our theme of songs that transport us to other times and places, this song talks about Joan of Arc and is accompanied by a medieval video. It starts off with ominous, ambient sounds before bursting into an simple yet grand, building love song. Both electronic and physical drums guide this song with and driving thunder of toms and the occasional snare roll. This song does something really interesting with the strange 80’s keyboard and drum sounds we’re used to, all finally building to a glorious synth crescendo. I personally am turned off to a lot of 80’s music, but it’s always fun to find a gem like this one.


Fang Island – Life Coach (Fang Island) 2010


Let’s end this list right with a bright, rambunctious rock song from the Rhode Island-based band Fang Island’s debut album. Fang Island makes major key progressive indie-rock called by Pitchfork, “‘celebration rock’ before Celebration Rock” referring to the album by Japandroids, and that is the only term to describe this song, it is a juggernaut of positive energy. This song gets the listener hyped, it punches you in the face with fuzzy guitars and gorgeous choral harmonies from the groups three members. Much like Blind Pilot this is a song about finding your way through life, it is energy and fun from start to finish, and a modern indie-rock classic.


 

This is Past Sounds. Every Friday Ghettoblaster Magazine is looking back and finding great music from various eras. Below are songs that sound great no matter what decade they’re played in. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.

The Chills – Pink Frost (Kaleidoscope World, Flying Nun) 1986


The Chills stand out even amongst the stand out bands of the awesome wave of music from Australia and New Zealand in the 1980s. Flying Nun will live in infamy for producing some of the best jangle pop records and Kaleidoscope World is definitely no exception.  Pink Frost is unique both as a song from The Chills and as being released during this jangle pop era.  It begins with a very upbeat guitar riff but soon descends into minimalistic guitar and rhythm section in a much more somber tone.  The lyrics that follow are chilling, sung with a hazy delivery.  Pink Frost results in an uneasy, yet beautiful and fascinating journey for the listener.


The dB’s – Black and White (Stands for Decibels, Capitol Records) 1981

Stands for Decibels was the debut album for The dB’s and is truly a bizarre album.  It almost provides a bridge between 60’s psychedelic pop, 70’s power pop and 80’s new wave all at once.  Black and White stands as one of the best examples of their power pop leanings.  There are shades of punk, 60’s pop and psychedelic music throughout this powerhouse of a song.  An easy to follow and hum-along-to guitar riff propels the song forward as The dB’s sing about love and the loss of it.  There are interesting diversions with the guitar work, but what really shines here are the drums.  As the song goes on the drums get more and more frenetic, ultimately blasting apart by the end of the song.  This is a great one to test your speakers on and just blast away.


The Magnetic Fields – The Book of Love (69 Love Songs, Merge Records) 1999

Full disclosure: my wife and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary soon and this is our song, so I had to post about it.  Stephen Merritt is the beautiful, droll, monotone and expressive vocalist behind The Magnetic Fields and puts together some of the most interesting melodies sung in a truly original voice.  Merritt is also a fantastic lyricist and The Book of Love is a wonderful example of what makes The Magnetic Fields so special.  The lyrics focus on, surprise surprise, the titular book that is huge and full of figures and documents the origin of music and how to love another person.  This really is such a special song that could have not been made by anyone else but The Magnetic Fields.


A Tribe Called Quest – Check the Rhime (The Low End Theory, Zomba Recording LLC) 1991

A Tribe Called Quest is revered as one of the best jazz infused hip-hop groups. Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and Phife burst on the scene in 1991 with their classic album The Low End Theory. This was the first step in an output that would prove them to be an incredibly influential crew.  Their music was in direct contradiction to the gangsta rap of the 90s and largely found them rapping about how cool, calm and collected they are.  “Here’s a funky introduction of how nice I am / Tell your mother, tell your father send a telegram” is a line that shouldn’t necessarily work in a hip-hop song but A Tribe Called Quest made a career out of expressing sentiments such as these over and over again in better and better ways.  Check the Rhime also features one of the best horn samples ever; so treat your ears to some really special music.

This is Past Sounds. Every Friday Ghettoblaster Magazine is looking back and finding great music from various eras. Below are songs that sound great no matter what decade they’re played in. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.

Phil Ochs – In The Heat Of The Summer (I Ain’t Marching Anymore) 1965


It’s hot outside, and the heat can make people do crazy things. Phil Ochs reminds us in this song, where he talks about the Harlem riots of 1965. Ochs was a good ol’ fashioned folk hero, essentially a more obscure Bob Dylan, using his music to highlight injustice. In this song he meticulously describes the scenes of the riots and delves into the thoughts of the participants, the police, the public, the press, and the mayor. He succinctly captures the reason for the riots, “So wrong, so wrong, but we’ve been down so long, and we had to make somebody listen.” Father-daughter folk duo Jack and Amanda Palmer recently did a beautiful cover of this song on their album You Got Me Singing, demonstrating how this song transcends it’s time period and taps into the issues that still plague our society today.


Joy Division – Atmosphere (Licht und Blindheit) 1980


This powerful track, released two months before the death of frontman Joy Division, was recently featured in the instant classic Netflix series Stranger Things, at the “Dark Night of the Soul” moment where it seems all is lost. This song is a slow build, with the pulsing echoy drum fill, soft bass plucks, droning keyboard, and Curtis’s signature baritone crooning, repeating the line, “Don’t walk away in silence.” As the song goes on twinkling synths  and crunchy guitar punctuate the instrumental breaks. This feels like the 80’s version of Lou Reed’s Street Hassel, with a similar composition and build, and in that song Lou repeats, “Don’t slip away.” This song was used so perfectly in Stranger Things, with the small town high school setting, it draws a comparison to Judd Nelson’s final scene in The Breakfast Club. This is a restrained yet inspiration song and, this isn’t the only song that will appear on this list, that is a beautiful send off to the artist who passed shortly after it was made.


Arrested Development – Tennessee (3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days In The Life Of…) 1992


In the year 2000 my brother got the Millenium Hip Hop ccompilation CD with all the hits: MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch This  Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre’s Nuthin But a G Thang and Tennessee was the least party-ish song on the album. This song finds AD’s frontman Speech in a despondent place in life, after the death of his grandma and his brother. He has a conversation with his lord and seeks guidance for what to do next. While this song has a classic hip hop party beat, sampling Prince’s Alphabet St., the content is heavy yet the songs stays fun and playful (especially the bits about horseshoes and watermelon) while being very deep and contemplative.


Warren Zevon – Keep Me In Your Heart (The Wind)  2003


You may know this song from Judd Apatow’s Funny People, it’s perfectly placed in the movie as the lead character is dying of cancer and that was also the case with the song’s writer Warren Zevon. On his last of many appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman he shared how he hadn’t gone to the doctor in 20 years until he went for shortness of breath and found out he had lung cancer. This was the first song he wrote after the diagnosis, a tender acoustic farewell to the world. I won’t even quote a single lyric because the song says it all. This is one of the most beautiful and powerful songs ever written. On Letterman he talked about how artists have impressions and sense things and that perhaps in some way he knew what was coming. He absolutely taps into something cosmic and spiritual with this song. He was an amazing guy with boatload of charisma, a killer sense of humor, and a brilliant affinity for music, leaving behind this gorgeous song as a parting gift.


Father John Misty – Only Son of the Ladies Man (Fear Fun) 2012


Father John Misty recently had a self-describe “meltdown” during recent festival set where he gave a very insightful rant about the state of our country. While much of Fear Fun  is about sex, drugs, and rock n roll, it is often peppered with apocalyptic prophesies. This song is one of the less political, more personal songs on the record, in which he talks about the death of “the ladies man,” presumably a mentor in the ways of breaking hearts in Hollywood. Seeing the “legacy of ruin,” left behind by his hero, he starts to question his lifestyle, and empathize with the ladies man’s past conquests, “Someone must console these lonesome daughters.” His second album is largely about his wife and their love story, this song gives us the story behind his shift from rockstar party boy to post-modern hippie husband. This is a beautiful, genuine folk song filled with Old Hollywood imagery, lead by Tillman’s booming voice singing an unforgettable melody.


Xenia Rubinos – Cherry Tree (Magic Trix) 2013


New York singer/keyboardist Xenia Rubinos has garnered some acclaim this year for her sophomore album Black Terry Cat, as her music is an eclectic blend of genres and influence that never fails to surprise and impress. This 6 minute song from her 2013 debut shifts and evolves, with vocals, lyrics, and rhythms appearing and reappearing in different ways. With elaborate syncopated compositions akin to Dirty Projectors, muscular keyboard stabs reminiscent of tUnE-yArDs, and dynamic vocals like Beyonce mixed with Regina Spektor this song is a force to be reckoned with. I could list a ton more elements and influences, but when it all comes together Xenia’s sound is innovative and original and this catchy, epic composition is the proof.


 

This is Past Sounds. Every Friday Ghettoblaster Magazine is looking back and finding great music from various eras. Below are songs that sound great no matter what decade they’re played in. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.

Billy Bragg – “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” (Talking With the Taxman About Poetry, Elektra Records) 1986


From the opening, slowly strummed guitar chords of “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” it is apparent the listener is in for a sad and beautifully told tale from Billy Bragg. The next few minutes are just that: beautiful and emotional, culminating in the line “he puts a hole in her body where no hole should be”. This song is taken from Bragg’s exquisite album Talking With the Taxman About Poetry, which finds him at peak performance throughout. As is the case with “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” the album focuses largely on just clean straightforward and expertly played guitar and poetic, political and wonderfully sung lyricism.  Levi Stubbs was the lead singer of The Four Tops and in the song is the only constant comfort for the protagonist as they deal with abandonment, injury and abuse.  “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” actually features more varied instrumentation than most other songs on the album, while still remaining such a minimalistic, yet incredibly dynamic song. It’s an epic journey worth going on and the final act of the song, when the other instrumentation kicks in, is really breathtaking.


Lupe Fiasco – “Kick Push” (Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor, Atlantic Records) 2006


There’s nothing better than a hip hop song that features a single musical loop that you could listen to all day and never grow tired of. “Kick Push” by Lupe Fiasco is one such song and features one of the absolute best loops. It’s a pretty straightforward beat but when those magnificent horns and spacey keyboards kick in it is elevated to another level. Then that joy kicks in again, looping throughout a fantastic song about a skateboarder, which is not common material for a hip hop song. “Kick Push” tells the story of a skateboarder who has never felt that he’s belonged, except when he is skateboarding. He finds love, he gains a crew of skateboarding friends, yet the world is against him with security guards and police telling him that he doesn’t belong there. It’s a beautifully told and fantastically rapped story featuring some of the best music to be found.


Wavves – “King of the Beach” (King of the Beach, Fat Possum) 2010


It’s summer time in a year that is on pace to be the hottest year ever recorded, so how about an awesome summer jam? Wavves delivers this in spades with “King of the Beach”. It’s a raucous track just begging to be blasted out open windows and outdoor boomboxes. “King of the Beach” is also incredibly catchy and reminiscent of a rougher edged classic-era Weezer song. The vocals are strained and scratchy from a party the night before and the music is loud and unhinged ready to start the party again tonight. It’s just plain fun, which is something we could use a lot more of these days.


Paul McCartney – “Dear Boy” (RAM, Columbia) 1971


“Dear Boy” from Paul McCartney’s great solo album Ram is a really special song. McCartney begins by singing a nice melody over beautiful keyboards, slowly introducing some absolutely stunning vocal harmonies and a really nice instrumental breakdown. This song is real short and real sweet and deserves a write up that does the same. Just listen to it.


Big Boi – “Shine Blockas” feat Gucci Mane (Sir Lucious Left Foot: Son of Chico Dusty, Def Jam) 2010


Big Boi is one half of the stellar hip hop duo Outkast and is legendary for his lightning fast and smooth delivery, often times switching up speeds and rhythmic pattern several times throughout verses. Sir Lucious Left Foot: Son of Chico Dusty finds Big Boi in solo album territory and he delivers a solid onslaught of an album over 15 tracks and nearly an hour of soulful southern hip hop.  “Shine Blockas” comes toward the end of the album and feels like a triumphant victory lap.  There’s a soulful vocal sample, some awesome southern tinged organs and great keyboards all over a delightfully choppy beat and some great low end bass.  It’s a master’s level class in hip hop music and Big Boi does not disappoint when it comes to his vocal delivery, showing what really makes him a special rapper.  He is joined by Gucci Mane who fits right in with the music and adds a fun element to the track.  This is another great song for summer parties and it is so good and joyful that it never gets old.

This is Past Sounds. Every Friday Ghettoblaster Magazine is looking back and finding great music from various eras. Below are songs that sound great no matter what decade they’re played in. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.

Wreckless Eric – Whole Wide World (Wreckless Eric, Stiff Records) 1978


This track from the debut album of  Eric Goulden, aka Wreckless Eric, is a sweet simple love song with a punk edge to it. Will Ferrell serenades Maggie Gylenhall with this song in the film Stranger Than Fiction (and gets totally laid), and it is often used as a beginner guitar song because it is easy to learn and a lot of fun to play. Eric sets up the song’s premise with the first line, “When I was a young boy my Mama said to me, ‘There’s only one girl in the world for you and she probably lives in Tahiti,'” and he vows, “I’d go the whole wide world just to find her,” (I think Mama Goulden just wanted to get him out of the house). This song is given it’s bite with Eric’s scratchy vocals and signature crunchy Rickenbacker, driving the song with a muted stroke in the verse and furious strums in the chorus. Songwriting legend Nick Lowe produced the album and offered guitar contributions on this song and others. Eric has continued making music into his 60’s and put out a great album last year. This song is just one of many gems from his early work.


Otis Redding – These Arms of Mine (Pain In My Heart, Volt Records) 1964


This is another love song, but it’s a different kind of love song, Otis long’s for the love of a woman that he cannot have.  Soft staccato piano saunters along with an occasional jangly surf-rock guitar note, as Otis bares his soul with his staggering vocals. The instrumentation is adequate and very much what you would expect from a melancholy 50’s/60’s love song, but Otis’s voice is the real star, we hear the Pain In His Heart pour out through his voice. There is a man who plays guitar and busks around midtown Detroit, and I heard him playing this song and it was so beautiful that it stuck with me and wound up on this list.


Bombadil – Honeymoon (Tarpits And Canyonlands, Ramseur Records) 2009


This dark comedy of a song teaches the dangers of keeping secrets, juxtaposing dark lyrical content with jaunty folk instrumentals. Initially lead by a catchy acoustic guitar part, this song begins with the lyrics, “throw the body in the lake and take a chance that no one finds out.” The lyrics tell the story of someone with skeletons (whether real or metaphorical) in their closet and how they hide these secrets from their future spouse. In the chorus they pose the question, “Even if you knew, what lies beyond that honeymoon?” The song builds from there, elements are slowly layered in: first a treble piano run, then strings and various percussion, and the final crescendo is foreshadowed, giving us only 4 bars when we want 16. The bridge is a stream of consciousness run with clever rhymes, flanked with the repeated phrase, “what lies beyond that honeymoon.”  The climax of this song is breathtakingly epic, finally delivering the crescendo teased earlier, as the piano notes pound and crash cymbals exploding on every beat. Just like the comedy group Stella, this oddball trio wears matching suits on stage. They opened for Kishi Bashi last year and see these guys live, suit-clad, giving a smashing performance of this song was one hell of a sight to see.


 

Beat Happening – Indian Summer (Jamboree, K Records) 1988


Calvin Johnson started K Records back in 1982, which was home to great bands like Beck, Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, and Johnson’s own bands Halo Benders and Beat Happening. This song is essentially the description of a picnic in a cemetery between Johnson and a lover, listing different treats and delicacies that they’re consuming. They have a wonderful experience and vow, “We’ll come back for Indian Summer.” This track is lo-fi and raw, very representative of indie-rock from this era, with hisses and crackles, notes missed, Johnson’s wonderfully imperfect voice drifting on and off key. The influence of The Velvet Underground is very strong on this track, and the song has been covered by many bands, most notably by Death Cab for Cutie, on their album Codes & Keys. This is a creative, quirky indie-rock love song, a clever and beautiful anthem for outcast lovers.


 

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (feat. Phil Collins) – Home (Thugs World Order, Ruthless Records) 2002


Like everyone else in the metro Detroit area, I’ve been listening to 105.1 Detroit’s throwback rap and R&B, and they’ve been playing a lot on Bone Thugs, so I tracked down this gem. This song is basically Bone Thugs reflecting on their success and talking about the struggles and the comforts of “the ghetto” that they once called home. The verse is reserved and smooth leading to the swell of the chorus as Phil Collins sings, “Take me home.” The African influenced explored by artists like Collins and Sting in the 80’s, is prominent here and it gives the song a hopeful tone. This is a strange combination of artists, but it works very well and has held up after all these years.


Mase – Welcome Back (Welcome Back, Big Beat Records) 2004


Welcome Back marked Mase’s triumphant return to the rap world after a 5 year hiatus following his second album, Double Up. With a celebratory beat built around John Sebastian’s Welcome Back, the theme song for the 70’s sitcom Welcome Back Kotter. Mase brags about girls and being a rap legend, but he has also undergone a change, “I’m just a Bad Boy gone clean.” This line shows Mase’s religious transformation, as he left the rap game to become a pastor, though a return is imminent. This is a feel-good rap song from one of the greatest, accompanied by a classic video with a goofy Mr. Rogers parody in the beginning. Blasting this in your car, with your windows rolled down makes any day feel like a glorious homecoming.


 

This is Past Sounds. Every Friday Ghettoblaster Magazine is looking back and finding great music from various eras. Below are songs that sound great no matter what decade they’re played in. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.

Funkadelic – “Hit it and Quit it” (Maggot Brain, Westbound Records) 1971


Maggot Brain, the third album from Funkadelic, is widely considered one of the best funk albums of all time. “Hit it and Quit it” is a definite standout track from the start with the fantastic guitar and organ interplay right out of the gate and it doesn’t let up from there.  The drum and bass groove that the song settles into is quite interesting and will have your head bobbing without a doubt.  This song really is an example of a perfect song.  It’s catchy, it’s aggressive, it’s got both an awesome organ solo and a scorching guitar solo and both the main vocal and background vocal performance is arresting.  This is definitely one to turn up and roll the windows down to.


 


Digable Planets – “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” (Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), Capitol Records) 1993


Digable Planets are true masters of the fusion between Jazz and Hip Hop and “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) is a great example why. It begins with a simple, jazzy bass line loop and introduces a fantastic horn loop just seconds later.  Digable Planets is comprised of three excellent rappers under the names: Ladybug, Butterfly and Doodlebug.  It’s no surprise that rappers with names like theirs would go against the grain of typical 90s hip hop.  “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” is quite literally about how they are some cool cats.  Just listen to the smoothness of each of their vocal delivery spitting lines with intricate wordplay all about how awesome they are.  It’s really a lot of fun, and also very true.


 

T.I. – “Bring Em Out” (Urban Legend, Atlantic Records) 2004


T.I. is in a class of rappers with only a select few. This class is made up of rappers who are incredibly commercially successful and critically acclaimed as well.  They make ear worms for the masses with substance to knock you on your asses.  There are not too many rappers who can succeed at this and that is essentially what the straight up banger “Bring Em Out” is all about.  Everyone loves T.I., everyone is chanting to bring out T.I., we all want a piece of him.  “Bring Em Out” does what most great T.I. songs do; it creates a sense of victory and celebration, as if there was a parade being thrown in his honor.  Just listen to those horns, those whistles and that driving beat!  None of this would matter if T.I. couldn’t rap, and “Bring Em Out” displays why his fast and smooth delivery is so enjoyable and celebrated.


 

Curtis Mayfield – “Move on Up” (Curtis!, Curtom Records) 1970


Infinitely Sampled and Underrated: The Curtis Mayfield Story. Curtis Mayfield has created some of the best soul music ever and while he is popular, he is not widely considered in the conversation of best musicians for some reason.  “Move on Up” should serve as exhibit A in the case to make that he should be.  It’s a marvel of music, which was actually sampled in Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky.”  Curtis’ guitar work blends beautifully with all the horns and percussion and everything going on here.  Honestly, words don’t do it justice, just hit play.


Shabazz Palaces – “Swerve … the reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)” (Black Up, Sub Pop Records) 2011


Shabazz Palaces is comprised of Ishmael Butler (aka Butterfly from Digable Planets) on the mic and Tendai Maraire on the instrumentation. They have pulled inspiration from a lot of different places to create this spacey and abstract form of hip hop with elements of jazz and African percussive instruments.  The songs they make are really mesmerizing and “Swerve … the reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)” is a glorious display of their talents.  It floats along in three movements, separate yet cohesive.  The first movement features Butler rapping over fractured and dystopian beat.  Movement two introduces female vocals from THEESatisfaction with a slight tweaking of the beat.  Finally, movement three focuses on a simple and beautiful refrain sung over very catchy African inspired music: “Black is you, Black is me, Black is us, Black is free.”