Friday, January 28, 2011

Dedicated Ears Songwriter Showcase #6 Cafe Ballou 1.22.11

The latest installment of Dedicated Ears Songwriter Showcase at Cafe Ballou was a rousing success.  Gabe (Dastardly) played the "Jew Song" and I was lucky to record it. The video is below. He has an ease with an audience that is commendable. He also played drums on Jared Bartman's set.  I really like Jared's phrasing and tone of his voice. He  played accordion and guitar. He also played accordion on Gabe's set. The two of them are headed out on tour, check their fb page for more info.

Brendan Losch play some new and some old songs.  It's always a treat to see him play.  Ami Suraiya was accompanied by a few of her band members from The Outcome.  I knew I would enjoy the set when the drummer had brushes and mallets and played some cool jazz rhythms. Ami played accordion... are you noticing a theme here? I thought their overall sound was great and you should go see them play soon. Will from Teenage Rage played a cool set as well.

It was a blast to hang with some of the bands afterwards.  Thanks again to Khosro and the staff at Cafe Ballou, which is a great place to eat as well as load up on coffee stuffs in a relaxed vibe.  They are always welcoming and I am fortunate to be involved with these shows.  Also, thanks to all of the people who come out to the shows. It means a lot to the performers.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mutts, Brontosaurus, Pretty Little Empire, and Zach Pietrini and The Broke Bones Jan 18 Double Door FREE

This show marks the first time Dedicated Ears will be a sole presenter for another  Betta Promotions FREE Show . This Tuesday, Jan 18th, doors at 7:30, 21+ to enter,  featuring : Mutts, Brontosaurus, Pretty Little Empire, and Zach Pietrini and The Broken Bones.  I would like to thank Rebecca and her whole crew, and look forward to working with them.  Betta have been putting on free shows all month long! 

Headlining the bill are Mutts, Mike Maimone's tight band with the grumbling bottom end. The band has branched out on their recent, awesome, FREE download-able The Tells Of Parallel  which is more experimental.  I have been to quite a few of their shows and their live set is always evolving.

The two headed monster duo of Brontosaurus are a treat live. They play a progressive indie brand of rock that is a sight to behold live. They shuffle around instruments to come up with a big sound for having just two members.

If you follow this blog at all you know of my love of Pretty Little Empire and their new album Reasons and Rooms, which topped my most listened to list for 2010. They are continually growing as a band and really solidified their sound with the addition of their new/awesome drummer Evan O'neal.  They have multiple capable members who sing lead. They only make it to Chicago a few times a year, so see them now.

Also on the bill is Zach Pietrini and The Broken Bones who I have not seen yet, but I look forward to seeing them on Tuesday.  So please come out and support these great bands and get in for FREE.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

When people marry their celebrity to their music as Kanye does, then it is impossible to allow feelings about his celebrity not to creep into discussions about his music. Kanye wants you to do that. He then sets out on this album to show you how he sees himself.  My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is about Kanye's own (more) love than hate relationship with his own celebrity.  At times he laments this relationship, and at others he vehemently encourages his celebrity to run wild.  In the middle somewhere is where the truth lies. It is interesting to see this struggle play out.  And oh by the way, the beats are moving further away from rap and closer to some indie electronic hybrid, which is fascinating.

The stacked horns on "All Of The Lights" are regal and blend nicely with the deep bass hits and is hit out of the park Rihanna's vocals.  This is another anthem sounding track for a cautionary tale about "street life".  "Restraining order, can't see my daughter, her mother, brother, grandmother hate me in that order", Kanye laments. On this track are cool parts by Kid Kudi and Fergy as well. Kanye does well encompassing artists that I would never want to buy a solo album from into these out-sized songs and they work beautifully.

 "Runaway" is the 9 minute centerpiece of this album with it's horror movie soundtrack single note on the piano for a good 40 seconds that bleeds into a sinister synth growl backing Kanye's wistful rapping of personal deficiencies.  "I don't know what it is with females, but I'm not too good at that shit, see I could have me a good girl and still be addicted to 'hood rats, and I just blame everything on you, at least you know  that's what I'm good at... let's have a toast for the douche bags, let's have a toast for the assholes, let's have a toast for the scum bags, every one of them that I know, let's have a toast for the jerk offs that'll never take work off, baby I got a plan, run away as fast as you can." All the while the strings build in the background until the bridge at the 5 minute mark, that slows to a tired lurch echoing the narrator being worn out with dealing with himself. The experimental run toward the end is a brave choice that turns this into true "experimental rap" and lends a cinematic force to the song.

From the opening chats and claps with an African bent, "Power" is a screamer of an anthem using the sample of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" by King Crimson. Ah, progressive music is influencing all corners of the music world, isn't it? Kanye uses it to great effect. The siren in the background enhances Kanye's desperate style of rap. "I got treasures in my mind but couldn't open my own vault." That one line says almost everything about Kanye and his talent and how he encounters disconnects of his own.

 This album is a step above the great collective work of his last album, 808's and Heartbreaks which is one hell of a feat.  His albums have each bested the predecessor. The big difference  on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is that Kanye has moved away from songs about the club, turned up the interrogation light on himself, and given us the results in rap form here.  It's a brave choice to put himself out there in this way. Kanye has shown he can take the criticism and turn it into great songs. This album is on my most listened to list for the year and will be atop many other lists as well.  I think Kanye has even more in him. I was kind of hoping that, given the plight of lower income workers in this economy, that Kanye would make a social commentary album that was more clever than some of his previous blunt statements on the state of common folks. I hope that album is on the way, because  it will take Kanye from having the best album of any given year, to one of the best albums of a generation.