Janelle Monáe and Kimbra Are Startin' Somethin' That Will Rock Our Faces Off

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Is this real or is this fantasy?

Two of my favorite singers together? Being matchy-matchy in checkered/houndstooth black and white? Singing their rumps off to a mash-up of Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady" and Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"?

Oh, it's real alright.

Really, it's amazing that the earth hasn't quaked and the volcanoes haven't erupted in unison once Janelle Monáe and Kimbra joined forces, but then again, maybe the geology warning should be directed towards Australia as it has been announced that the two quirk queens are taking their sassafrassin' sounds Down Under on their joint show, The Golden Electric Tour. For four days in May, the two will stomp the stage together for the first time, sounding like my kind of girl power double feature. Even a stop will be made in Kimbra's homeland of New Zealand for one night only. So for those of you who call those areas home should try with all might to snatch up these tickets as this appears to be a comet of a moment that has the potential to be historic. As the rest of us wait for them to bring their combined energy to other parts of the world, Monáe and Kimbra's little jam session together teases and dares of what is in store for the tour, and the two are just righting all wrongs by plowing through these classics and rocking some of the best coifs in the music biz.

As much as I want to marry this touring news, after viewing this video, I demand that these two release a duet album together, and I demand it soon. Sounds like drafting up a petition on Change.org is the next step to get the ball rolling, hmmm?

Milo & Otis Ease In With 'Almost Us'

There are days where I truly miss the collegiate lifestyle. Just soaking in whatever came my way, opening my mind wide to possibilities in-between the chaos, popping in and out of small, hole-in-the-walls to water and feed myself --- the everyday of just simply trying to find my way. Chi-Town's Milo & Otis, comprised of vocalist Jamila Woods (Milo) and producer Owen Hill (Otis), often give me that nostalgic feel for those mellow madness days with their songs, and though they have a much more stylish and assured direction than I ever did in college, they make music that is youthful, introspective, and carefree, reminding me of those easier times.

Speaking of easy, their second EP, Almost Us, is just that. Going for a minimalist downtempo groove, the duo really picked the right moment to release this, as it's a Spring-ish type of soundtrack that ebbs and flows with the merging of Mr. Otis' bed of muted percussion and sonic synthesizers, to the honeyed combed vocals courtesy of Miss Milo. It captures their 'adventure soul' aesthetic, blooming right on off with the musing horn flourished opener, "House". This track was the initial intrigue that led me to seek out their previous material (their 2012 debut EP, The Joy is up and streaming on their SoundCloud spot), and made it simple for me to fall in love with their modernizing take on the soulful and electronic side of folk-pop.

Readjusting such familiar genres seems no struggle for the two as they color out of lines, assembling sounds and rhythms that shouldn't work together but do (the baroque shimmer of "Jimi Savannah" and "RUN!") and experimenting with meditatives (the dreamy cloud swell of "Blue", and wistful haunts of "Hollow" and "Neighbor") that are light on their feet but heavy on confession. They aren't all cool relax, as highlight "It Was The Song" is a percussive squiggle of an uptempo while getting lost in the thicket of guitars of "When Pigs Fly" isn't a bad ideal.

Soothing, smart, and exploratory, Almost Us is Milo & Otis continuing to hone in on the blurring of genre lines while never surrendering to the heart and soul of the lyrical matter. As they advance forward with their soulful adventures, we should follow their lead, and allow them to charm us into the easy life.

The Ten Emotional Stages Of Watching OutKast Officially Reunite At Coachella

Monday, April 14, 2014

While we were sleeping, hungover, or trying to clock in just one more episode on Netflix this past Friday night, OutKast took the stage at the infamous music festival of the hippie shakes in Indio, California and well, it was a big f*cking deal. It's been ten years since Andre 3000 and Big Boi have been a collective and issued Southern fried flows with a futuristic lean, and their absence has been a real canyon in the hip-hop world. Whispers of rumored reunions have cropped up over the years, but this year the screams are shrill as the duo did in fact go by their word and planned to make it all official by reuniting at one of music's biggest events this month. What's even better news is that the duo are planning to not make this reunion at Coachella just a one-shot deal as they have inked deals to play close to 40 engagements this year alone in the US. Bless them. Being that OutKast is a favorite music act of mine, I went through several ranges of emotion while watching their hour-and-a-half set (which is up right now on the beautiful invention called YouTube) and well, things were so amazing that the experience must be explained by GIFs because...the Internet.

Proceed if you want to get lost in emotion...

You Better Listen To 'Every Little Word' MNEK Is Saying

Friday, April 11, 2014

So I'm echoing myself here, but MNEK just makes me so gosh darn happy for music's future that I have to be repetitious. It's all in the details really, as for his official debut single "Every Little Word", the London multi-talent has pulled out some serious elastic funk that is strategically stylish as it is a layer cake of experiments and revival sounds that expand on his already well-established repertoire. Barking hip-hop samples, New Jack-styled tempo changes, dizzying pop synths --- all of them frosted with MNEK's silky loverman croons (like a baby Jeffery Osborne or Johnny Gill he is...) to make for a freshly crafted song that bridges the new with the old without a glitch. MNEK's stream of refixes, guest spots, and production work over the past two years have led up to this moment, so really I'm not surprised at this aural slaying, but it's still nice to be confirmed that we've got something special in our midst and the coming months are about to get quite interesting indeed.

1989 + 1991: Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam Give It To You 'Straight', No Chaser

Thursday, April 10, 2014

You know what makes me twitch? Whenever I hear a really great song and discover that it wasn't released as a single when "hit single" was tagged all over it. You know what makes me twitch even more? Whenever I find out that the singles that were released from the initial project were terribly lackluster and were being complete jerks by not letting the greater material take center stage.

Now I understand that another man's trash song is another man's treasured song, but sometimes stuff is just too glaring to ignore. Last week I got wrapped up into listening to Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam after re-watching their Unsung special, and from there I was reminded of a few things when I listened to their final two albums, 1989's Straight To The Sky and 1991's Straight Outta Hell's Kitchen. Not only was I reminded as to why they are one of my favorite musical acts of the 1980s, but I was also reminded about the latter part of their career, and how to me, it didn't deserve the bittersweet curtain call it received.

Marie Dahlstrom Gets Moody Over Patrice Rushen's 'Forget Me Nots'

After the successful double dose of The Renditions and The Gloom EPs from last year, Marie Dahlstrom became soul-jazz's newest disciple and one of my new favorite acts. Dahlstrom is yet another name I trust to twist a classic into a specialty item, and with Patrice Rushen's 1982 hit single, "Forget Me Nots", the Danish dame has once again revitalized a beloved favorite and fashions it just for her. She brings along YouTube star, Jeremy Passion to reassemble the song into a duet and chooses to transform the funk classic into a love lorn meditative. As I will be forever partial to Rushen's original (because how can you deny that fantastic groove?), hearing this reversal take further explains why Dahlstrom coming at us with a second part to her Renditions series is a blessing for us all. To snatch up this refix for the low price of free, just provide an e-mail and your set.

Meshell Ndegeocello Introduces Her Comet With Conviction

After giving praise to the High Priestess of Soul back in 2012, Meshell Ndegeocello is going to take it back to an astral state of mind with her upcoming album, Comet, Come To Me. From title alone you can bet that Meshell is delving into something cerebral and cosmic for her 11th set (!) and with the first taste test of album track, "Conviction", Meshell is still up in her feelings and bringing her usual soul stirs that are as always skillfully refined. Except this time out she opts out of experimental meditations and rests her head in the familiar plush soul/rock pillows of her past '90s work. Nice. "Conviction" is just one of 12 new original tracks to be featured on Comet, or one of 15, depending of if you snag the expanded edition that Meshell will offer through her webspot.

A month ago, Meshell gave a brief interview with folks over at The Boombox to discuss the new album among other topics that are rolling around in her cranium (oh, to sit, sip tea, and exchange words with her!), and thankfully she keeps the project shrouded in a bit of mystery, but knowing how Meshell rarely (if at all never) disappoints me, Comet, Come To Me will be yet another cherished set from her. You can pre-order the album here and expect for its proper release June 3rd.

'Slow Dancing' According To Betty Who

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

After doing a somersault dive into electro-pop pools with her debut EP, The Movement, last year, Betty Who has been poised to be a game changer in pop music. For Slow Dancing, Who is anything but tepid, as she's coasts confidently on her major label debut (she recently signed with RCA) with even more high kinetic '80s synth drenched confections that are fit for a John Hughes film prom scene. The Whoster (that's what I'm nicknaming her) is back with Peter Thomas, whom foresaw the production on The Movement, but to round out the cast of producers there is the addition of indie-dance act Ghost Beach, whom aid at giving Who an edgier, albeit classier, take on the modern pop formula.

The dance begins with the shimmering synth rainfall of "Heartbreak Dream" (which we've already gotten acquainted with), and then we're spun into the doo-wop laced, "Alone Again" and then into the funky landscape of my personal favorite, "Lovin' Start" and synth symphonic, "Giving Me Away". Who doesn't give us the true 'slow dance' till the end with the intimate "Silas" and here is where her vocals get a chance to breathe from under layers of synths, as they flutter pensive over twinkling acoustic guitar notes. Of course this set is criminally short, but if there were any doubts, Betty Who has gone above and beyond her debut EP to give ample resuscitation back into hook-heavy dance-pop. So for all you Andie's and Duckie's out there, put on your bolero ties and pink nightmare dresses on as Betty Who has designed Slow Dancing just for you.

Artist Watch: Low Leaf

Monday, April 7, 2014

Serenity and simplicity are always in vogue. In this world of multitask and social networking, it's always nice to have the escape clause that is music, especially music that provides a personal bedding of comfort from the weary work week. When I heard Low Leaf's collaboration with Philly producer King Britt several days ago, I was first struck by its cooling hypnotic state, but after a few spins, I began to coast right along with its sparseness. Usually most minimal sounds have the high-end scent of walking into an Urban Outfitters, but with the kinship to the surrealistic pillowing of disciples like Erykah Badu and Bjork, Low Leaf's "A Light Within" conjured up something solitary. Her genuine intent is evident as her dedication to her Philippines homestead rises up into her music allowing the soul and spirit of "the people, its bloody history, and its bright future" to carve out a profound listening experience that succeeds at being divergent from the usual pack.

We've been slumbering a bit on the LA-based multi-talent (she's a classically trained pianist and self-taught harpist as well), as she's been honing her sound on a handful of EPs since 2011, but we'll get further chances to hear more from her as after joining the Fresh Selects family tree she'll have yet another set, AKAHAALAY, out on her roster on April 29th. For the time being we are treated to the (free) likes of "A Light Within", and the recently released, "Rise Up", which is the geared to be the first single from her upcoming LP and is also a wonder with all its textured weavings of trip-hop and jazz. With these two portraits, Low Leaf is an artist steadily on the move to bring cultural pride into the modern music fold, and her voice isn't to be silenced.

Take 5 Friday: Sam Smith + Janet Jackson + JoJo + Denitia & Sene + Cyndi Lauper

Friday, April 4, 2014

Reheating leftovers of the week...

Sam Smith on SNL
Um, let's talk about Sam Smith shall we? If you're hip to not be square, you recognized the name as the driving vocal force that was plastered over Disclosure's fantastic "Latch" from last year. After making quite an impression on SNL this past Saturday, his name should not escape anyone's mind, and after not really checking for him, consider me cashing that check like it's the first of the month. Smith has got quite a peerless vocal on him, and to hear such a poised and crisp serenade on live television (and considering the crappy acoustics of the SNL stage) is true achievement. Which is why I don't blame people for collectively losing their minds over it throughout the week. With current singles, "Stay With Me" and "Lay Me Down", Smith brought chuuuurch to the SNL stage, and that was mighty brave considering how his peers wouldn't (or really couldn't) have exuded raw intimacy like that on a late-night sketch show. Comparisons to Adele are quick to be shouted, but when you're British, have a voice that sounds wiser than your years, have great hair, and aren't model thin, then you'll pretty much be compared to Adele these days, right? Still it's obvious what is happening and well, I guess I'm glad for it, though it'd would've been nice if he sort of cracked a smile and pulled out "Latch" for old time sake. I mean, why so serious, Sam? [Watch 1 / Watch 2

Damita Jo Is 10 Y.O.
In a perfect world, Janet Jackson's 2004 album, Damita Jo, would be a modern classic. Shined with a conclave of producing and writing masterminds from new blood (Kanye West) to reliable standbys (Babyface), and crammed with glossy dancefloor spinners ("R&B Junkie", "Put Your Hands On") and raunchy R&B throwdowns ("Sexhibition", "All Night (Don't Stop)"), Jackson proved on album #8 to find the right wiggle room and balance in a changing R&B and pop landscape. Instead barely anybody saw it that way, as Damita Jo had the unfortunate position to be overshadowed by "the incident that should not be named" a few days prior that painted Jackson with a scarlet letter of "I" for "irrelevant" and the project was plunged into a vortex of misbegotten. Blogging amigo The QHBlend has written a severely honest and factual account of the time when Jackson's once celebrated sexual frankness became the butt of jokes by one unintentional live f*ck-up that tarnished what turned out to be the last solid album of the singer's career. If silver pasties and apology videos were dancing around your head in 2004, give yourself some time to understand Damita Jo in new light. [Read]

IAMNOBODI Puts A Little Spice Into D'Angelo's Brown Sugar

There is a bear rocking a ballerina tutu in the room --- and we all know what it is. Yeah, I'm quite tired of entertaining the idea that D'Angelo is on the road to comeback and releasing new material. We thought it was going to happen last year for really reals, and well, we got some great live performances right? Ah, well, he'll get around to making album #3, just that I hope I won't be residing at Shady Pines Retirement Home with a messed up hip when he does. I mean, I want to enjoy some newness while I'm still able to get out of bed without my bones cracking and my hearing intact.

Retracing steps back to the classics of D is what has to be done, and IAMNOBODI has put his producing wizardry (which you can experience more in-depth at his SoundCloud spot) to the test by crafting what is a mighty stellar remix of "Brown Sugar". He already had help, as "Brown Sugar" is just an all-around great joint from 1995 (and my favorite D cut, btw), but he revs things up a bit by lacing the track with swirling sonic synths to take the song to a noughties slickness, and it's some hot brown sugar that is just bubbling over. As we lose keep our patience with one of soul's biggest enigmas, this refix is the pure remedy to fill the void till D's proper return.

Audio Diva Social Networking Update

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Along with Audio Diva's latest design remix, I wanted to update ya'll on my social networking situation at current as I'm slowly trying to get back into being social online after practicing Hermitage. As you can see there are brand new shiny social buttons on the right side and they will direct you to where you can find me online and how to contact me through e-mail and/or subscribe to the blog. Here is a breakdown:

Yes, I'm now on another form of procrastination. I've been on there for awhile, pinning like a mad woman, but I'm now sharing my space with everyone. When you visit, you'll begin to see how I have a serious problem with food, glitter, and nail polish, among other things. There are also a few boards of note as there are musically inclined boards as well as a board that has helpful tools and advice for writers and bloggers, because I'm getting savvy now.You can join me pinning here: [http://pinterest.com/jennifudy/]

I'm still on Tumblr...but I have whole brand new one! I had to delete my old one after a layout change screwed things up so I took that as a sign to start over fresh. So if you followed me before on my old Tumblr, just re-follow me again at me new Tumblr spot: [http://sassafras-soul.tumblr.com/]

I'm trying to give myself a better presence on Twitter so I can one of those "social writers". I don't talk about anything remotely omgamazing!! but get me started and I can be pretty random. The blog is in fact updated on there, so if you miss a post, check the Twitter. Also if you want to chat, don't be a stranger, I'm pretty nice, unless provoked...or if don't get my daily dose of chocolate. [@jennifudy]

Most of everything I post here is posted there, but also when I find cool stuff and can't commit to writing about it right at that moment, it'll be on the SoundCloud page. If you didn't already have it bookmarked: [https://soundcloud.com/jennifudy]

Just me scrolling my current listens. I mostly have it just to see how much music I consume, but you can hit me up with a message or add me if you fancy: [http://www.last.fm/user/theaudiodiva]

Oh, and no, I'm not on Facebook. Me and Facebook are not friends.

No Rest For (The Wicked) Lykke Li

Lykke Li how I missed thee. To be real honest, I have to be in the right mindset, even the right setting, to listen to Sweden's own melancholic madam. A dimly lit room, with a little libation (non-diluted Crystal Light works in a pinch), the pages of the horrible first draft of my current work in progress gripped in my hands, lots of Kleenex. You know, lots of angst and blaming the everybody and their mama for my first world problems. Sometimes I want to scream 'Lighten up, Lykke! Quit being so damn emotional!' and tell her to stop punching me in the gut with her haunting tunes, but she keeps on doing it, and she keeps on winning with them and well, sunshine is overrated anyway.

After the wonderfully young adult gloom of 2011's Wounded Rhymes, the chilling piano-led lament, "No Rest For The Wicked" has Lykke Li back at sublime melancholia again. It's just as cinematically weeping as her last entry, "Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone" from a month ago, but feels much less hollow as it sways and swells about around Lykke's creaky wails. Both tracks come from Lykke Li's upcoming third album, I Never Learn (out May 5th), and from the sound of things, I'm pretty sure that this album won't be spinning at any backyard BBQ's anytime soon.

1980 + 1981: Ai No Corrida

Music videos from about the late '70s to the early '80s fascinate me. They are demented and sad, and look like seedy snuff films where if you watch at least five minutes of them you will have a curse put upon you till 2037 or something. Considered me damned as nothing prepared me for the visual mind bend of Chaz Jankel's 1980 single "Ai No Corrida". It's a Night Gallery episode on acid or a fever dream after eating bad Taco Bell. A scary plastic faced man. Lots of tulle. Explosions. A lady coming out of nowhere to play the trumpet --- it's screwed up low budgetry to the 10th power and it's marvelous.

Still "Ai No Corrida" is an amazing song. A-mazing. Zany, funky, infectious, and gives a complete middle finger to the 'Disco Sucks' age by turning the genre on its ear for the 1980s. But I know what you're thinking, who is this White guy and why is he singing Quincy Jones' "Ai No Corrida", right? Well, Jones' version is actually a cover of Jankel's debut single. Jankel began his career in the British rock outfit, The Blockheads, but when he left the group his interest in mixing funk elements into rock led him to forge a solo career where he could flex those ideas onto an experimental self-titled debut that was released in 1980. "Ai No Corrida" was the first single off of that record, and it bubbled under the radar, till Jones politely snatched the song for his hit 1981 record, The Dude, and brought it to prominence.

It's kind of a shame that Jankel barely gets the credit for his own song as Jones' sharper and more spruced up version (which features vocals from Patti Austin) went on to become an R&B top 10 hit as well as scored him a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement (I still think it's crappy people can get Grammys for covering other people songs...). Though I like both versions, Jankel's original piece, on the other hand, is about eight prime minutes of extensive groove. He's not the greatest singer, but he makes up for that by crafting a multi-layered dancefloor epic that feels like disco, but is darker in tone, and from the sound of its complexity, it's really no surprise why a legendary composer like Jones wanted to get his hands on it.

So what does "Ai No Corrida" actually mean? I love the Internet because I've wondered this for years growing up on Quincy Jones' version and thought they were saying a dirty come-on in some made-up language this side of Ubbi dubbi. "Ai No Corrida" actually translates from Spanish to the "the bullfight of love" and is the original title of the much-banned erotic French-Japanese art film, In The Realm of the Senses which revolves around a storyline about a scorned woman who cuts off and keeps in her pocket her lover's, um, "stuff", goes a little insane, and later comes out of prison a feminist icon. Groove on.