Track of the Week: Pompeii by Bastille

This week’s track is Pompeii by Bastille off of the Bastille EP. On the outside the melody, drum beat, and slightly Enya-esque harmonies and the like make it seem like a fun upbeat indie pop song, but the lyrics give away perhaps a darker side to all that is saccarin.

“But if you close your eyes, / Does it almost feel like / Nothing changed at all?”

Super fun song all the same. Commence head bobbing and heel tapping.

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Track of the Week: Say That by Toro Y Moi

This week’s track is Say That by Toto Y Moi, off of Anything In Return. Toro Y Moi came up quite a bit last year, but I’d never paid much attention to him. His latest album, Anything In Return came by my path last week and this song is a nice piece of upbeat eletropop. The rhythm is great, but the vocals are what hook me.

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Track of the Week: Ca s’régale by Sinsemilia

This week’s track is Ca s’régale by Sinsemilia of of Debout, les yeux ouverts. Where to start. Oh yes, let’s start with the obvious: I can understand about 2% of what they’re saying. But I can say that Sinsemilia is an activist ska/punk group from France, the music is fun and it’s dark in the office and gloomy outside, so the fun pick-me-up sound and the activist message that I don’t understand is working for me today. And maybe it’ll work for you, too.

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Track of the Week: The Fear by Ben Howard (Moonlight Matters Rework)

This week’s track is The Fear (Moonlight Matters Rework) by Ben Howard. I feel like I should know more about Ben Howard. His music, his appearances, and the whole lot. But I don’t. What I do know is that he has a song called The Fear. It’s excellent, with a gripping guitar line and Howard’s engaging vocals. And what I really do know is this remix takes a excellent song and makes it superb. Keeping all what made the original great and layering a snappy bass line, some thumpier drums, Moonlight Matters changes the genre for The Fear from folk to indie pop. Awesome song in both the original version and the Rework. Listen and treat your ears.

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Track of the Week: Witch Hunt by Wayne Shorter

This week’s track is Witch Hunt by Wayne Shorter off of Speak No Evil. It’s been a while since I’ve put jazz up as a track and it’s been a while since I’ve listened to any jazz. While Wayne Shorter isn’t a household name like Miles Davis or John Coltrane or Charles Mingus (my personal fav), he’s a heavyweight nonetheless, hailing from the same bop era of jazz. This this the first track off of Speak No Evil, a Blue Note production. As quickly as the frenetic opening trumpet line grabs you, it disappears to be taken over by the laid back classic cymbals and snare. The power thru the song is delivered by beautiful, strong and convincing trumpets but my favorite part might be the piano solo at about 5m30s that takes a walk over the drum line and then easily moves back to the song’s main pattern. Take a listen and enjoy this fantastic jazz number.

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Track of the Week: Sweet Nothing by Calvin Harris (f. Florence Welch)

This week’s track is Sweet Nothing by Calvin Harris, featuring Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine). The easiest way to describe this track is, it’s about time. Florence has this room filling soaring vocal that was just bound to end up on a thumping club track. Calvin Harris delivers a huge beat that she effortlessly and ethereally floats over. I’ve heard a few remixes of the song which take the stems from her vocals but nothing does justice to her huge sound as well as the original production from this track. It’s a high-repeat, high-volume song that hopefully lights up your Sunday.

Also, as a side note, me and a few friends and acquitances have started a little music blog called Looking Outside In. I’m casually contributing a song here and there, so if you’re looking for more music that’s roughly in the same generes as Track of the Week, it’s worth checking out.

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Track of the Week: Mi Música by Alexander Abreu and Havana D’Primera (Guest Post)

This week’s Track Of The Week is a joint production with Ben‘s Song Of The Week, featuring special guest contributor Sarah Siebold. Sarah is expert on all things Cuban, and has written up a really excellent, detailed tour through this Timba track for close listening. Ben’s SOTW is cross-posting Sarah’s contribution as well for this week. If you’re not on his list yet and want more “curated” music in your inbox, in particular of the pop/80s/indie varieties, find him on Twitter and get involved; you won’t regret it.

Now without further ado, we’ll turn it over to Sarah….

This week’s song is Mi Música by Alexander Abreu and Havana D’Primera, along with an introduction to Timba music and a guided tour through the song.

Timba is a modern Cuban genre of music that shares a common ancestor with salsa. It has strong Afro-Cuban roots and is highly influenced by American jazz, rock, and soul. Timba is often referred to simply as “Cuban pop music.” I love this because, in contrast to a typical American pop song, a timba song often requires 10 or 15 classically trained musicians! I like to think of Bruno Mars recording alone in a studio, versus 10 Cuban masters jamming together and orchestrating their talents for the enjoyment of the Cuban masses. Timba tends to have an intense, high energy, aggressive sound. It is known for being masculine, and if the lyrics are not about social or political upheaval, they are usually about showing off, showing up the competition, or finding a new way to say, “I’m the shit”.

Mi Música is a fantastic, classically structured timba song. Follow along!

Beginning: This is the cuerpo section. It is melodic and lyrical, and usually has one singer. The song starts off very “pretty”, and the lyrics reflect this sound – he sings of “music floating in air”, love, happiness, destiny, blah blah.

1:58: Here you can hear the song begin to transition and you know it’s about to get really good. Underneath the piano and vocals, you can hear that high-pitched noise that sounds like two wooden blocks hitting each other. That’s the clave loud and clear, the building block of any salsa song. For dancers, it’s fun when the clave shines. You can geek out about clave here.

2:08: This is the start of the montuno section, where there is traditionally a call and response between the main singer and the chorus. As the music gets more aggressive, so too do the lyrics. The chorus sings, “I can’t believe you can’t understand my tumbao [1], it’s not even that complicated!” The singer brags about how great his tumbao is. He calls it “100% natural”, “transparent” and “the essence of my people”. In the call and response, many singers (like in this song) often shout “listen to the chorus” or “listen to my people”, as if the chorus were wise and all-knowing.

2:38: This is the mambo section, where the horns take center stage. Best part! I’ve noticed that I almost always fall in love with a timba song when I like the mambo section. The singer yells, “check out the mambo!” Agreed; they are awesome.

3:00: The instruments get very loud, and the singer really goes for it. He sings of his musical heritage that has been passed down to him. This song is about being proud of where you come from. The chorus shouts, “I am the feeling, the spice, and the chili pepper. I am lucumi!” [2] There is also a clear religious undertone to this song. The singer blesses his ancestors, his African roots, and calls out to some of the Orishas (Cuban Santeria gods).

3:23: That’s not Spanish! That’s Yoruba – the liturgical language of Santeria, the main religion of Cuba. It is peppered throughout the song, which increases the religious feeling.

3:40: You can hear the horns again, some percussion, and some of the other instruments more clearly as the song gets a little quieter for a minute. I think there are sub-sections here called “gears” and marcha but I’m not yet wise enough to know about that.

4:00: As a dancer, you’re into the song now. Like the music, the dance (called casino) is also aggressive, athletic, and often focuses on the guy. So on the dance floor, the guy is showing off now and doing fancy stuff. Despite the religious sentiment of this song, the singer is still cocky and sings about how great the song is. He says, “I want to put my tumbao at the center of the earth.”

5:00: More showing off and bragging. The chorus now succinctly repeats, “It’s great!” (I assume they mean their music). I like this song because to me it feels about being proud of your abilities, acknowledging and accepting who you are, and being totally pumped about it. It is self-declaration and celebration, which is not a bad way to feel once in a while, especially when you’re out and having a good time.

Hope you enjoyed Timba 101 and Alex Abreu’s beautiful music.

Here’s some other fun facts about timba if you are still reading:

  • Timba uses many traditional Caribbean and African percussive instruments and an American drum set!
  • It’s the bandleader that rises to fame, not the lead singer. In the case of this song, Alex Abreu is the trumpeter, bandleader and singer.
  • The opportunity for so many classically trained musicians to also be pop stars is rare, I think, and definitely a testament to the Cuban government’s dedication to training classical musicians. There are simply many more opportunities for people to enter the arts in Cuba.

[1] What is tumbao, you might ask? It’s a set of rhythmic patterns played by the piano and bass, and each timba band creates their own, so they like to compete about whose is best. Tumbao can also mean “swagger”, “swing”, or the “it” factor. Like, “check out her tumbao!”
[2] Lucumi means Afro-Cuban, or being of the Santeria religion.

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Track of the Week: Flutes by Hot Chip

This week’s track is Flutes by Hot Chip off of In Our Heads. I’ve never been a huge Hot Chip fan and that’s largely because I never took the time to listen to them, but this new album is a great indie-esque synth pop. Flutes is unlike most of the songs on the album — it’s darker, more brooding, but the sound is totally unique and yet accessible.

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Track of the Week: All of Me by Tanlines

This week’s track is All of Me by Tanlines, off of their debut LP Mixed Emotions. A mostly synth-pop band with a bunch of bounce, this track is my favorite off of the album. Synth and guitars with a four-on-the-floor beat would make for much of an exceptional indie-pop band, but I love the lead singer’s voice and the lyrics and fun and catchy. Not particularly deep or thoughtful but it’s a fun summer song.

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Track of the Week: Up All Night by Alex Clare

This week’s track is Up All Night by Alex Clare, off of The Lateness of the Hour. Alex Clare’s Too Close is the music behind all those very hip Bing commercials and been on the rock stations recently, so it was to find that song that I brought The Lateness of the Hour. Musically all over the place, it’s a strange mix of dubstep and rock (dubrock anyone? or perhaps rockstep?) all the while being very dance-y. The real unifying force in the album is his voice, sometimes quite raw, sometimes super processed. Some songs lean heavily in the rock genre, such as the pick for this week. I choose it since it’s so different than the one that gets radio play.

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