Rudimental & The Roots Picnic: The Right Music at The Right Time

I had the pleasure of attending the Roots Picnic this past weekend. Performances ranged from old/established artists like Freeway, Snoop Dogg, The Roots, Doug E. Fresh, A$AP Ferg, etc. to new ones. Obviously, considering the scope of this blog, I was more interested in the new ones.

show

Roots Picnic 2014, Source: Bars and Chords

Remember when we talked about why artists do covers on YouTube? Well, think about festivals/outdoor concerts as taking this concept to the next level…or next few levels depending on how you look at it.

While festivals are a time commitment, next to social media and the internet, they are arguably the best way to get exposure to new fans. Think of the smaller festivals as mini-marathons. You run the smaller races so you can qualify for the bigger marathons like NYC, Boston, etc., or in this case, Coachella, Made in America, etc.

Bad Rabbits was one of the bands I came into the event most excited about. They performed well, and have a fresh, eclectic sound. However, I have to admit they are a bit hard to connect with. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but something’s missing… check out one of their videos here to see if you agree.

So who ultimately stole the show?

Rudimental

Rudimental

Rudimental, Roots Picnic 2014, Source: Bars and Chords

Perhaps it was the crowd I was with – they were all extremely excited about this group – but Rudimental is the definition of right music, right time. The group has already been a hit in the UK, hence the millions of views they have on YouTube. See below for one of the songs I cannot seem to stop playing.

 

There had to be at least 8 performers on stage during the show, but the core group consists of Amir Amor, Piers Agget, Kesi Dryden and DJ Locksmith (Leon Rolle). They have multiple Platinum awards under their belt, a Brit Award, and the Mobo Award for Best Album, in addition to several other notable nominations.

What was particularly spectacular about their performance at the Roots Picnic was their seamless integration of the singers into their music. Two backup singers – and by backup, I mean they stood in the background on an elevated stage at the beginning of the show – ultimately became the lead singers later on. Come to find out, the band actually prefers working with unknown vocalists and sourcing new talent rather than recruiting established stars.

It’s a perfect idea – and they’ve managed to bring to light an up and coming star named Anne-Marie. She was absolutely incredible to say the least. She had a soulful voice, vibrant energy, and passion for the words she was singing, which filtered through the crowd. What else is cool? After the show, she chilled in the crowd and enjoyed the rest of the show…like a normal person. I managed to dig up a video of her singing live (Video).

All in, Rudimental delivered the perfect blend of soul, electronic music, and plain old fun. Look for them to make waves through America and bring their careers to unimaginable heights. There’s nothing like the right time, right music.

**Side note: Jhene Aiko also performed to a HUGE crowd – it’s interesting to see how much her career has taken off.

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Case of the Mondays – Focus Artist: Le P

I blinked, and it was Monday again…depressing, I know.

BUT it was also 70 degrees this weekend in NYC, which meant I saw people I hadn’t seen since winter began, I was able to finally retire my North Face, and I almost wore shorts. yay.

In the spirit of spring and concerts and happiness, this edition’s Case of the Mondays brings you another international artist–Le P. Thanks to technology and our weird, entrepreneurial and amazing generation, DJs have transformed from supporting artists in shows to being the show themselves. Now unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find out much about Le P other than the fact that he is a French DJ housed under Bambousek, a French Digital label (here’s his FB page). No matter though, the song I think you will all enjoy is called History and it features Michael Jackson. Yes, MJ is perfectly blended into this song, which makes it an automatic winner and a song I will be jamming to at the beach–if I ever make it there this summer.

Oh, and as a bonus feature, Le P has a song with Sam Smith…and you all know how much I love Sam Smith.

 

 

Lykke Li and the Power of Change

So I was going to just do a quick post titled Lykke Li releases new music video, but I’ve realized that this isn’t just any video…

To be honest, I had to watch it about five times before I discovered the underlying meaning. After the second time, I almost went to Google and typed Lykke Li music video meaning…which speaks to how lazy I can be at times

About the video: “No Rest for the Wicked is the second song I wrote for I Never Learn,” says Lykke Li. “I wrote it in Sweden when I was packing up my sh**, and I’d just gotten out of a relationship and it was a horrible time. I just had the hurt, shame, sadness, guilt, longing. The vocal track, the take, is the demo. In the verse, I’m referring to myself pleading guilty, but I’m referring to all of us.”

Take a look:

 

Hopefully you’ve figured out that this is about racism (in 1 sitting, unlike myself) – the struggle of an interracial couple to survive through wicked eyes and hate.

My intellectual readers will likely be excited about this one because it brings up a lot of serious questions and issues. Right away, I have to wonder why I didn’t notice what the topic was in the first place? My initial reasoning is that it wasn’t something I was looking for…in reality, it’s told from a white person’s point of view (she’s Swedish, I know, but still). It’s rare to see this type of struggle being told from the other side. Second, perhaps I’ve gotten used to the blood and gore associated with racism and hate told on the big screen…it’s sad, but think about it, all we saw was her boyfriend trying to get up, and then ultimately falling to the ground. Completely different image than i.e., 12 Years a Slave.

Third, the plot seems like it’s more about love than hate…scenes of the couple running through the fields, hugging, going out together always seem to be at the center of the video, interrupted by the flashes of staring eyes. It’s probably why I missed the ‘wicked’ eyes in the first place.

Bottom line, I appreciate Lykke for making this video and bringing the topic to life. We need to address it, not pretend it doesn’t exist. I won’t get into the debate here, but seriously, you have to be glad that we can still use the power of music to catalyze change.

Case of the Mondays – Focus Artist: Banks

I have a case of the Mondays, which usually occurs every Monday to be honest.

And this new artist (new, depending on how you define it) is speaking to my mood right now. Banks—yes, just Banks—was featured in Vogue last year as “Artist of the Week” where the author wrote: Her songs perfectly capture a feeling of being lost and powerless in the world. But the music is powerful, the opposite, as she put it, of helpless.”

banks 2

She has also toured as the opening act for The Weeknd and perhaps strangely, but somewhat unsurprisingly, her sound is being described as ‘dark R&B’

…not sure what the world is coming to but, if you also have a case of the Mondays too, take a listen

 

Sam Smith’s Career is About to Take Off

I never really notice “background” songs playing during TV shows. Obviously, it makes more sense to pay attention to the dialogue more than anything else. BUT as I was watching Grey’s Anatomy this past weekend, I couldn’t help but notice the ballad playing as Owen and Christina went through another one of their ‘I love you and I don’t know why’ scenes.

I noticed it so much so, that I paused the show and got up from my couch to look up the song…and that’s saying a lot.

As it turns out, the song was a cover of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I know” by Sam Smith. It also turns out that it’s not available ANYWHERE yet, which is disappointing, I know.**UPDATE: THE VIDEO IS AVAILABLE HERE** 

For a little background, Sam Smith is a 21-year old singer that was born in the small Cambridgeshire satellite town Linton. He grew up in a household that was full of soul music – the first album that moved him was Whitney Houston’s My Love is Your Love, and one of the first songs he understood was Aretha’s Say A Little Prayer. He was trained by a jazz singer where the first song he learnt the craft and composition of was Frank Sinatra’s Come Fly With Me. For more info see abc’s blog.

Ultimately, you may recognize Sam as the singer on Naughty Boy’s La La La, or Disclosure’s Latch, but interestingly he has yet to release his debut album. What does this mean? It means you can go to his Soundcloud and download his single Money on My Mind for free. You can also download his Nirvana EP, which is incredible.

Most importantly though, you can still get fairly reasonable tickets to one of his live shows. Personally, I’m a little upset that I missed the boat on his Webster Hall performance (tonight at 8 pm), but if you’re one of those with a little extra cash you can go over to Stub Hub and buy a ticket for ~$70 (they were originally $18). If you’re not in NY, check out his upcoming tour dates to see if he’s coming to a city near you: www.samsmithworld.com/live

Sam’s album In the Lonely Hour is set to drop on June 17, but is available for pre-order if you need to feel reassured that you’ll be one of the first on the bandwagon.

Next time he’s in NYC, I’ll let you guys know. Until then, let’s jam to Money on My Mind and Latch…

 

Need a Hangover Cure?

Happy New Year B&C Readers!

As you lay in bed and reflect on the past year, the future, and how bad your hangover is, it may just be the perfect time to discover some new music.

Today, we turn to the world of hip hop and mixtapes. Fabolous’ Soul Tape 3 seems to be the hottest one out right now (Download) and if you haven’t listened to it yet, well, you should — even if mixtapes aren’t really your thing.

Equally as interesting though is discovering the “non-mainstream artists”. You’ll have to sift through the bad and the good, but nothing is sweeter than finding the good. One mixtape that seems to be gaining some traction is Bizzy Crook’s 84: Off Season (Download). Bizzy is an up and coming artist that hails from Miami, FL. He was signed by Mona Scott Young (you know, the hip hop mogul, and the lady who controls VH1’s Love & Hip Hop) at the age of 18 and has been developing his career ever since. Below, is one of his latest videos “21.”

Sing a Song! Sing a Note! Sing a Chord? My Take on Lalah Hathaway’s New Sound

Firstly, I have to apologize to all of my readers for being extremely late on this post. This should be about getting all of you the interesting music quickly, before mainstream takes over and ruins all of the fun, and I’ve failed here.

I watched the video below of Lalah Hathaway a week or 2 ago, and sadly, I’m just writing about it now. Nevertheless, it’s still important to highlight because she may just be changing the face of music as we know it today.

Snarky Puppy is a Brooklyn, NY based group led by Michael League that was formed in Texas in 2004. The band comprises nearly 50 musicians, many of whom were once students at the University of North Texas. They are not your typical band as they perform on a variety of instruments including guitars, pianos, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.

In March of this year, Snarky Puppy and special guests convened at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke, VA to record a series of live performances that would bring attention and benefit to the ongoing work of the center.

One of the performers was Lalah Hathaway, who needs no introduction. She stands at the edge of the stage as a conductor normally would—though a microphone takes the place of the typical conductor’s music stand and her voice takes the place of the baton. Each band member can see her clearly; they do not have music stands either, nor a single piece of sheet music.

Neo-soul, afrojazz, Earth Wind & Fire, grand improvisation, perfect crescendos and decrescendos are all words that come to mind while listening to this song (what comes to yours?).

And then Big band…

The number of talented musicians that grace the stage makes the process seem complex in and of itself. But the music may not be as complex as one may initially believe. In fact, it ‘s foundation is simple. The keyboard begins in half steps and initial transitions are in whole steps – maybe a jump or two in between (a 4th to be exact). Why? Well, check out minute 3. It’s all about the voice, the music creates itself around Lalah Hathaway, as if her voice is the tree, and leaves flow from the branches perfectly (or something).

And then the vibes…

4:40, the backup singers kick in, the band starts vibing, Lalah’s tempo takes off in jazz-influenced ad-libs.

And then the magic…

6:12, I don’t know what else to call it besides a chord – or maybe two simultaneous notes? Lalah sings simultaneous notes with her voice. I think. Is that even possible? Then she does it again. Really, how is that possible? Again. I think, it might be possible Again. IT’S POSSIBLE.

One blogger, Mal Webb had an interesting take on it, writing:

“…I’m fairly sure what she’s doing isn’t actually “overtones”, as in the air in oral cavities resonating to create another note (which are the high overtones or “harmonics” that the Mongolian/Tuvan singers do). Lalah’s is a vibration of the “false vocal folds” (also called “ventricular folds”), which are two fleshy parts either side of the vocal folds that can be drawn together to create extra notes (or noise!). It’s these that create the Tuvan/Tibetan/Inuit throat singing “growls”, as well as death-metal screaming and rock distortion. But what Lalah is doing is a much lighter, breathy contact”…

I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of overtones and the above description – along with two notes. Don’t take it from me though. Let your ears have a listen. 

Taylor Simone Releases New Music Video + EP : “Songs of the Front Yard”

Summer is over, and while most of us have nothing but fading tan lines and Instagram photos to show for it, Taylor Simone is out with a new project that may very well boost her career to the next level.

Now a senior at Columbia University, Taylor’s fan base seems to be growing larger and larger every year. Her new project is titled Songs From the Front Yard, and she is going big to say the least. When asked about the inspiration behind the title, Taylor says, “It’s based on a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks called ‘A Song in the Front Yard.’ In a nutshell, the CD is an introduction, a coming of age from a woman(ist) perspective…”

So with the official release party set for this Friday, she is already gearing fans up with her first official music video release: “Name of the Game” feat. Chill Pittman.

The video is sporting around 700 views and as usual, B&C is here to break down the song for those of you who may not immediately catch onto the musical details. So before you even watch the video (if you haven’t already), read below for Olivia Harris’ artistic spin on it:*

The playground hand game introduction says it all: Taylor is ready to tell us the name of the game and win it. Y’all remember Concentration? Guess it’s throwback Thursday already. Time to concentrate, so pay close attention to what Taylor’s saying.  The smooth, spare, yet still danceable beat paired with Taylor’s assured vocals get us hype, but there’s still plenty of space to think about Taylor’s message to all the ladies: “don’t front, do better/ don’t quit.” As she asks us how we would feel about changing the flow, we ask ourselves, is it the lush jazz chords changing the flow or is this even bigger?  Taylor seems unafraid to add a lil’ hip hop flow to a lil’ soul. And that mix sounds like the dreamy futuristic world where only Ms. Badu and Ms. Monae have been taking us. Chill Martin complements with rhymes that remind us of that good ol’ Country Grammar and every childhood ditty we’ve ever forgotten. And the music video dreams just as big, with a very creative and inventive blacklight scene that keeps us floating. Somehow, Taylor has managed to take a home-sweet-home feeling and update it for a sophisticated crowd with get-down sensibilities.

Love it? So do we. If you’re in NYC, tell all your friends that you have plans this Friday the 13th. The album release party kicks off at 8 pm in the IRC on Columbia’s campus (552 W114th St btw Broadway and Amsterdam). For more info, click here.

P.S. Expect a lot more from the incredible Olivia Harris (CC’13) this year on the site! More info. to come.

Is Jay-Z Taking a Pay Cut?

If you watched the NBA Finals game last night, you probably saw Jay-Z’s advertisement, announcing the release of his new album Magna Carta Holy Grail. In addition to the mastermind himself, the ad features some of the most talented producers in the game: Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, and Rick Rubin. Immediately after the ad aired, the world took to the internet — fans announced their excitement, and most seemed to agree that this was a genius marketing strategy.

So what is the deal exactly? Well, the first million Samsung Galaxy users will be able to download an app that provides access to Magna Carta for free, 3 days before the rest of the world gets access on July 4th. But what the world didn’t see in the ad, are the gritty details behind this deal.

Samsung paid Jay-Z $5 million upfront for the rights to release the album to 1 million users for free. Think that sounds like a lot? Think again. Most albums range from $10.99 to $12.99. That’s 1 million users x $13 = $13 million, versus $5 million. And because Jay-Z is Jay-Z, chances are he gets close to 70% of the revenue from his album sales.

Now how much of a coincidence it that this announcement was made a few days after Kanye West’s album leaked all over the internet? And then what about J. Cole’s? In the world of Hip Hop, album leaks aren’t a new phenomenon. Perhaps this is why Jay-Z is starting this #newrules campaign. He recently tweeted (which he never does):

Tweets

See Jay-Z may be taking a “pay cut” based on strict album sales, but he’s getting a pay raise in terms of net revenue. In 2008, he made a $150 million deal with Live Nation, part of which includes a $25 million upfront payment to Jay-Z and $10 million per album for a minimum of three albums over the next decade. In other words, Jay-Z is already getting paid for this new album release. In addition, he not only has a leg up for any upcoming tours based on the Magna Carta album, but also made a major deal with a $195 billion company. This deal will shape the future of the music industry, creating a platform for other mobile companies to compete with Apple’s music sales.

So what’s the bottom line? It’s not just about album sales. In fact, it may not be about album sales at all. Platinum status? Good luck to Billboard on calculating this one.