It is 5 AM…and You Are Listening to Los Angeles

In the annals of 90’s music, you might run across a band called Soul Coughing.  If you hadn’t heard the name before you’d be likely to shrug it off as some metal band that was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and probably wasn’t very good anyway. You’d be hard-pressed to find yourself more wrong.

While what we remember as alternative rock in the 90’s may mostly consist of that of two California bands; Cake and Sublime, the east coast too was making its own mark on music.  G. Love and Special Sauce is one such example that still has a grip on music today, though his brand of hip-hop blues hasn’t been very groundbreaking since his debut in 1994 (Though “This Ain’t Livin'” is one of the most poignant songs you’d find on any record past and present)  yet there was a band with an even more creative vision who came out of NYC who would call themselves Soul Coughing.

Poetry and music had been intertwined before, but usually only to little success, and found mostly in run-down jazz clubs and open mics.  M. Doughty and his band mates would try to fill the void in popular music form, Doughty’s alliterative and abstract stanzas would be a percussive instrument of their own backed by a tremendous rhythm section of upright bass and drums.  However clever his lyrics, it is doubtful just how good they would have been without another key member, Mark de Gli Antoni, who played keyboards, and more importantly provided samples.

Sampling today is more important than ever in rap music, the backbone by which most rap songs live and die by and yet creatively it was never better than when Soul Coughing was at their best.  Listening to Ruby Vroom, their debut album is like stepping into the looking glass from Alice in Wonderland, everything is delightfully surreal and new. Not many bands would have the gall to start their debut song with a line like “A man drives a plane into the Chrysler Building” yet their sound is so unique and dynamic that by the time “Screenwriter’s Blues” and “Down To This” roll around, you’ll never look at Los Angeles, Howlin’ Wolf, or the Andrews Sisters the same.

Yet Soul Coughing isn’t a one-trick pony, their taste for the surreal blends rather well with true sentiment, “True Dreams of Wichita” wouldn’t feel out of place on an early Tom Waits album, with its musings on a recent break-up, and songs like “Soft Serve” combine a mellow instrumentation with intricate imagery.

Check out some of Soul Coughing’s material after the jump.

Continue reading It is 5 AM…and You Are Listening to Los Angeles

A Mixtape Monday Presentation: Cars and Trains, Boats and Planes

Introducing the themed mixtape, more music, word free. This week concerns those means of transportation. The mixtape after the jump.

Continue reading A Mixtape Monday Presentation: Cars and Trains, Boats and Planes

Mixtape Monday: Charlemagne and the Silver Bells of Harlem

Listen in this order

You Got the Silver- Susan Tedeschi

A voice of pain that soothes, a song that is one of the sweetest odes to a lover, written by Keith Richards no less.

Guitar- Cake

An upbeat song about destroying a guitar/relationship, pulled off in Cake’s typical catchy style.

Seven Years- The Impressions

The song, the harmonies, the lyrics, are so uplifting and inspiring, this was Curtis Mayfield’s gift and its over far too soon.

Peace Like A River (Paul Simon Cover)- Spoon

The original was perfect, and yet Spoon still breathes new life into it, the bass plays the melody now, the guitar and piano the rhythm, and Britt Daniel brings along his cynical touch to the lyrics.

Jesus, Etc.- Wilco

Jesus, don’t cry
You can rely on me, honey
You can combine anything you want
I’ll be around
You were right about the stars
Each one is a setting sun

Tall buildings shake
Voices escape singing sad sad songs
tuned to chords
Strung down your cheeks
Bitter melodies turning your orbit around

The lyrics say it better than I ever could

How Long Do I Have To Wait For You- Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

The lyrics cry longing, the instruments dance and the band grooves pay attention to that little guitar lick (you’ll see what I mean) Sharon Jones’s performance, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call her the female James Brown, and sax solo is worth the download alone.

When I Get Home- The Beatles

Ah, The Beatles in their youth, a whole different polished animals, the guitars and drums burst with energy, the harmonies are tight and John Lennon proves himself as one of rocks greatest vocalists.

Tired of My Tears- Susan Tedeschi

Take Sharon Jones earlier song, dip into a Southern Gospel groove and this is what will come out, Susan Tedeschi’s vocals blur the color line on this one and the guitar work is flawless.

Bells of Harlem- Dave Rawlings Machine

From the soft pitter patter of the snare drum to the golden acoustic guitar and the warm vocal harmonies this song just breathes beauty at its most effortless.

Multiply (In A Minor Key)- Jamie Lidell

That squeak at the beginning is the opening of a door into a club where both the voice and piano shine and dance, and all anybody else can do is watch.

Breaking All The Ground- Joe Firstman

she’s swinging from my heartstrings
singing that she’s climbing up.
she drinks bourbon from her daddy’s favorite coffee cup.
and she’s flying down the highway
crying that she won’t confess.
she’ll walk to charlotte like a princess
in her mama’s wedding dress.
and i watch her break away
more and more every day.

thats just the opening verse, some people have a way with words, and heck he’s gotta thing for melody and arranging too.

Where Did Our Love Go (Live) (Supremes Cover)- J. Geils Band

J. Geils was the ultimate bar band, they had fun, they didn’t get bogged down by ambition, they rocked a dirty gritty sound anchored by Peter Wolf’s gruff vocals, you can tell they’re just having fun here, and the slide solo in the middle is absolutely euphoric.

Ragoo- Kings of Leon

The dynamics are fantastic on this, with a Police styled arrangement but more nitty gritty earth bound vocals.

Book of Moses- Beck’s Record Club

If for just one reason, get the song for its beat, because shit it is heavy.  Another? Beck is a hell of a producer and arranger, this one plays out like an updated Bill Withers song, funky, soulful and full of power.

Remember- Jimi Hendrix

Everything about this song is wonderful, youthful yet reminiscent.

Minding My Own Business- Coconut Records

Its hard to figure this guy was an actor before a musician, add the fact he plays all the instruments as well, the natural feel of the song goes even more to prove his talent, great songwriting.

Lenin- Arcade Fire

A song off of Dark Was the Night, by Arcade Fire, like you need any other reason to download it.

Gold Mine- The Union Line

I wish this band existed on iTunes because this song actually makes me want to buy more of their stuff, and buy isn’t a word i like to throw around alot.

Charlemagne in Sweatpants- The Hold Steady

From the organ to the guitars to the vocals and lyrics, The Hold Steady just grip you from the get-go.