G's Funk

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Fuck Reading, Where's the Music!

So I know it's been a while since I wrote anything and I know Joe is crying over it.

So I don't have anything to write right now, but I'm currently listening to ALOT of new music, so hopefully I'll have some recommendations soon.

To clue you in, here's what I've got on my playlist right now.

We've got news albums by:
Andrew Bird
Arcade Fire
Jarvis Cocker (ex lead singer of Pulp for those of you who care)
Kaiser Chiefs
Kings of Leon
Macy Gray
Modest Mouse
Nine Inch Nails
Sean Lennon
Tori Amos

So clearly, I'll be busy.

Look for an update soon.

Joe, you suck!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Reading is Fundamental!

So I've been really lax in writing this thing everyday. It's really more of a pain in the ass than I thought it would be, but I do enjoy it so I'm going to keep doing it until I no longer enjoy it. I've also been real busy lately, which is also why I haven't had much time for posting.

Anyways, I decided that I'm not going to talk about music today; I'm going to talk about books. Specifically, I'm going to talk about the book I just finished and the book that I'm currently reading. I recommend them both.

So I just finished Brad Listi's debut novel “Attention. Deficit. Disorder.” It's a coming-of-age novel for the 21st century. Responsibility, both to oneself and the world, has taken on a different set of rules for the internet generation. We live in a different world that the previous generations, our upbringing is a more conscience one, we are more aware of our surroundings and of the elements that produce the world that we see. The world today is a place where we require too much stimulation, or at least more than our parents did. Whether you believe that ADD is an actual disease or simply society's way of saying that our brains can't function with an overabundance of stimulation, it's clear that the manner and the need of our coming-of-age has changed. Changed to what is the question.

Listi has devoted his novel to asking this question. With a style that is reminiscing of early Vonnegut, Listi rifles off his story in short sentences and short chapters. He succinctly (thanks Kim for helping me spell) tells his story matter-of-factly, with little emotion involved in the first person account. Not unlike, Camus' "The Stranger", Listi realizes the power that comes with a colorless expression of life. He tells his story of unsatisfying adventures without realizing the growth involved in unsatisfying experiences. Maybe that's a lesson we should all learn, that even when things don't seem to be satisfying, that they really are more beneficial that we think they are.

The other book I recommend is "Sweet and Low: A Family Story" by Rich Cohen. I picked it up on Thursday night and haven't been able to put it down since. "Sweet and Low" tells the true story of Cohen's own family, specifically his Jewish grandparents from Brooklyn who revolutionized the world twice, first by creating the first sugar packing machine and then by producing the first sugar substitute, Sweet'N Low.

Cohen, who has written for Rolling Stone and the New Yorker, paints a loving picture of his tortured family, all the while providing a detailed history lesson along the way. Cohen uses the backdrop of the history lessons to enrich his story. He describes everything, the early immigration of Jews to America, the development of the Brooklyn Ship Yards, the use of sugar throughout history, the accidental creation of Saccharin, the migration of Americans to suburbs, and anything else that he encounters throughout the plotline that'll sweeten his story.

From the beginning of the book (actually from the picture on the front cover) you know the ending, that his parents were disowned from the family fortune. Cohen's book sets out to tell why, what transpired that tore apart the family that was hailed by the New York Times as a model American family business.

It's no surprise that Cohen's sweetness shines through in his writing. His storytelling ability is clear and straight to the point, but not removed from the story. He brings the reader into his family by sharing secrets and explaining nuances that only a family member would be privy to. He provides background and explanations that provide more than just mere information; he includes the reader in the jokes and the fights. In this way, "Sweet and Low" is less a story written in book form, but a story told to grandchildren, complete with pictures and life lessons.

Monday, May 29, 2006

It's been a while, I know and I'm sorry

So I haven't posted in a long while faithful readers, I'm sorry. I didn't post last week due to a string of hangovers and job interviews (I'm telling you, the two don't mix so well) and I didn't post yesterday because of laziness and an urgent need to clean my apartment (those two don't go well at all either).

I was actually upset that I wasn't able to post last Thursday, I had been looking forward to doing a Yom Yerushalayim post, but Tzvi's wedding and the Yom Student at Gan Ha'atzmaout proved overpowering and my writing ability was deeply effected by the massive amount of scotch I consumed. So, I wanted to tell everyone to listen to Matisyahu's song "Jerusalem" off his new album Youth on Yom Yerushalayim, but I couldn't. So I'm telling you to listen to it now.

With a chorus that seems eerily familiar to the famous psalm, Matisyahu sings "Jerusalem, if I forget you, let my right hand forget what it's supposed to do." The entire song is about what a bracha it is for us to have our beloved city. It's an uplifting tune that provides a deep pride in the fact that no matter what has happened to us Jews in the past century, we never gave up the yearning for Jerusalem. And to actually live in Jerusalem and be able to celebrate a Jerusalem Day, I know it brings tears to my eyes when I think about it too much. Which is why I don't too much.

While we're on the subject of Matisyahu, I am really astounded by the commitment that this Lubab has in fulfilling the Rebbe's wishes of providing yiddishkeit to the world. To see him on The Jimmy Kimmel Show was one thing (where he was asked by a funny Kevin Nealon about the existence of a East Coast/West Coast rivalry in the world of Hassidish Rap), but to hear 'Want Moshiach Now' being sung on MTV is another. He's no Tamir Goodman, he's the real deal. We all should be shepping nachos from this guy, he's what we all should be shooting for, 100% acceptance of our culture and beliefs in the world.

So back to what I was listening to last week for our little city's holy day, also on my playlist was the only other two songs I had with the word Jerusalem in the title. Those were Phish's version of "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" and Alpha Blondy's "Jerusalem". Both great tunes that break Jewish holiness into the mainstream. I can't tell you the pride I felt when I heard random Phisheads walking around humming a song by Naomi Shemer. And what's a West African reggae singer who has toured with the Wailers doing singing Baruch Ha'ba Yerushalayim and Ani Ohev Otach in Hebrew? Don't question it, just sit back, enjoy and feel the pride.

So, along with this sappy post about pride and Jerusalem and all the crap that's associated with it, let’s continue down the path of sappy, chick stuff. Over the weekend I've had Tori Amos' latest album The Beekeeper on heavy rotation. I'm not really sure why I was listening to it; I've had the album for about year or so and never really listened to much of it. The random songs that have passed through my ipod I've liked, but I never really sat down and listened to the whole album. I did that this past weekend, and I now know why it was viewed by many critics as one of the best albums of 2005.

Tori (I wish we were on a first name basis) has made a career out of meshing classic piano playing with introspective (and often controversial) lyrics amid a rock backdrop. The Beekeeper was recorded with her greatest strength in hand, her ability to control a song's tempo with her piano and voice. She seamlessly takes a ballad, speeds it up until it rocks, and then slows it down again leaving the sweetest impression on listener’s ears.

The Beekeeper incorporates African drums and Irish choirs into the mix along with Tori's gifted piano playing, most notable on "Jamaica Inn". "Ireland" is another example of the perfection that Tori achieves on this album. The song is one of the most unique on the albums, combining a 50's style guitar work with a chilled out African drum beat and a soft choir in the background. Tori's own piano takes a backseat to the rest of the musical arraignment. Probably the best songs on the album are the stripped down "Ribbons Undone" and "Toast", where Tori unleashes her powerful voice over a simple piano.

Like her gift in managing song tempos, Tori knows how to manage the tempo on her album. She is one of the most gifted and talented musicians in the game. I highly recommend just buying the whole album and listening to it. It's no wonder that her fanbase is one of the most diverse in music, her fans often gravitate from bands like Tool, Ani Difranco, Slayer and Depeche Mode.
Recommended songs: "Jamaica Inn", "Ireland", "Ribbons Undone", and "Toast".

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

American I

So I've noticed a trend. People outside of the United States don't particularly like any of the truly American non-urban forms of music. Country, Folk, Bluegrass, Delta Blues or any genre that bridges these forms of music are shunned by most international music affiliates. Beloved American bands like The Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams, Woody Guthrie, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rarely register on most international music fans palates. Which is a dying shame.

Recently though, a slew of Rock stars have bridged the gap between Rock and Americana. Most notably Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Van Morrison, Norah Jones have all hit it big on the Country charts, while Neil Young has a folky/country sounding new album, Mark Knopfler (former lead singer of Dire Straits) teamed with Emmylou Harris for a new album, and Jewel has returned to her folk roots with what might be her best album since her debut Pieces of You.

While Bon Jovi's entry into the Country music genre is limited to his duet with Country Pop Star Jennifer Nettles, his New Jersey compatriot Bruce Springsteen has set the charts afire with his tribute album to Pete Seeger entitled We Shall Overcome: The Seegar Sessions. Pete Seeger was one of the most prolific folk and protest music singer/songwriters of the 1950's and 60's. His hits include "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", "If I Had a Hammer", and "Turn, Turn, Turn."

Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen, or simply, The Boss, pays homage to his American Hero by recording over a dozen of Seeger's songs in true Springsteen style. The gritty, soulful album is filled with the songs that made Seeger famous and the sound that made Springsteen a legend. After over 30 years recording music, Bruce's voice still holds as strong and as powerful as ever. "Eyes on the Prize" comes through as a Western ballad, the type of song that was sung by cowboys roaming through the Louisiana Purchase, fitted accordingly with a longingly slow fiddle solo. "O Mary Don't You Weep" starts with a 40's style jazz big band sound before relaxing into a gospel-style anthem. Other songs, like "Old Dan Tucker" and "Erie Canal" are more Bluegrass, while "Shenandoah" and "We Shall Overcome" are standard sounding folk/protest songs.

If terms like fiddle, Bluegrass, Western ballads and protest music have got you confused, then maybe its time to expand your musical vocabulary to include the music that breeds in the American flatlands and is gestated in the American gut. The Boss is a clear place to start, his voice is gruff and his attitude is ferocious. No man alive can compare to his career both in terms of longevity and quality. In fifty years don't be surprised if someone like Ben Harper records a tribute album to him.
Recommended Songs: O Marty Don't You Weep, Eyes on the Prize, Old Dan Tucker and We Shall Overcome. And while we’re on the subject listen to classic Springsteen hits like The River and Born to Run.

I can tell you personally, I was very excited when I heard that Mark Knopfler was teaming up with Emmylou Harris to release an album. Knopfler, who is best known for his genius guitar work with his band Dire Straits, seemed like an odd match for Emmylou, who made her mark in music by writing songs that defined 70's style folk and country. If anything the mesh of 80's era guitar pop and 70's era folk hardly sounds like a match made in heaven, and if this album is any indication, won't be a new music fad.

Maybe it's because the guitar aficionado instead of the career lyricist wrote 10 of the 12 songs, or maybe it's because I was expecting the typical Knopfler guitar sound, but either way, I was very disappointed by All The Roadrunning. While genre bending is often a great way to relaunch a career, most artists do it in a way that plays to their strengths. This album does not do that. Emmylou's voice sounds as good as ever, especially when she breaks out her classic country twang, but the strength of this album should focus on Mark's guitar playing and Emmylou's penmanship. Sadly, this project got away from that. It's a shame, both musicians are talented enough to come out with a better album.
Recommended songs: Beyond My Wildest Dreams and Right Now (which is the only song that comes close to playing to their strengths)

To Be Continued…

Monday, May 22, 2006

I really don't want to like Kanye West,

but somehow I feel drawn to his music.

He's a pompous loud mouth who loves to rant about how he's under appreciated in the music world and how George W. Bush sucks. He publicly attacked the Grammy Awards in 2004 for not awarding him the Best New Artist trophy, after he already won for Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song and Best R&B Song. And he threatened a boycott of his own performance during the 2006 Grammys if he didn't win.

He raps about how George W. Bush gave Saddam anthrax and how Bush Jr. infected Africa with AIDS. He even started yelling during a live NBC broadcast of a benefit concert for the victims of Hurricane Katrina about how "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

Kanye seems to be an arrogant, self-proclaimed preacher who spouts his absurd views of the world every chance he gets. But in this blog, we talk about music, not politics. And sadly for us all, Kanye makes good music.

What started as a successful career as a music producer for Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Brandy, Janet Jackson and John Legend grew into one of the most profound music careers of the early part of the 21st century. As a producer, Kanye made a name for himself by developing a unique style of Hip Hop beats by speeding up or slowing down his samples. His early success on songs like Jay-Z's 'Izzo (H.O.V.A)', Alicia Keyes' 'You Don't Know My Name', and Twista's 'Slow Jamz' propelled Kanye to the forefront of musical producing, but Kanye wanted to get his face out there. He wasn't looking to just make music; he wanted to make a name for himself. He wanted to be famous.

After a car accident required his jaw to be wired shut, Kanye felt inspired to lead his life to the fullest. He recorded his first single 'Through the Wire' just two weeks after his accident, while his mouth was still wired shut. His debut album, The College Dropout, was released in 2004 and peaked at number 2 on the US charts. It's been certified double platinum selling over 5 million albums and has spawned four singles. What makes The College Dropout stand out from most Hip Hop albums is its clarity. Clarity in both the lyrical and the musical sense. The beats are crisp and the lyrics are clear. You can hear every sound and every word. The College Dropout also features quintessential Kanye tracks, simple beats, overdubbed samples, guest vocals and a mix of funk, rock and soul.

On his sophomore effort, last years much anticipated and much celebrated Late Registration, Kanye took his love of mixing around with samplings and simplified his sound. In his hit single 'Gold Digger' instead of sampling the required Ray Charles track he wanted, Kanye got Jamie Foxx to sing it. In 'Touch the Sky' Kanye mixed a Funk horns section with Afro-Cuban beats to create a sound that is as soulful as it is unique.

Celebrities have always loved using their celebrity status to push boundaries and create perception in places where those ideas are taboo. For all of Kanye's ego and ambitions, his perception of his race might end up being the most important thing that he's ever created. In a world dominated by Hip Hop clothing, Kanye had a hard time getting started in the music industry because he didn't look the part. Kanye gave his albums names associated with higher education, hoping that they would promote an understanding that college should be the goal for high school kids, not a life on the streets (his third album, due out at the end of the year is titled Graduation). Kanye attacks President Bush on race related issues, maybe not because he believes so strongly in these issues, but to raise the awareness of the community to issues that aren't being addressed. For a culture that is as deeply indebted to its musicians and athletes as role models, Kanye might come out on top. So despite the fact that I want to hate him, much like I want to hate Meredith Grey, I just can't.

Recommended Songs: Izzo (H.O.V.A) by Jay-Z, Touch The Sky, Through The Wire and Gold Digger by Kanye West, and Slow Jamz by Twista

Thursday, May 18, 2006


So I don't know why I'm going to do this, but I feel the need to explain what this blog is all about. Stemming from emails I received about yesterday's post about the Goo Goo Dolls, it seems that some people just don't get it. So here it is. The clarification of what the G's Funk blog is trying to do.

The goal here is to provide people with an alternative to listening to galgalatz. That's it. I'm not trying to prove my indie cred by talking about obscure bands or trying to predict the next rock stars. I'm simply recommending artists, albums and songs that most musical palettes would enjoy. I have been focusing recently on new albums that have made a dent in either the Billboard charts or critical reviews, but I don't intend to do just that. I'm also going to talk about artists that I enjoy listening to and my musical taste has a wide range, including cheesy pop music. I see nothing wrong with pop music. I'm not embarrassed to say it. I think Pink is talented. I like the sound that comes out of Sean Paul's mouth. I can't get enough of the new Shakira song. Daniel Powter's Bad Day is one of the best songs I've heard on the radio in a long time (until galgalatz ruined it for me). And although there was no way in hell I was going to go to her show, I think Kelly Clarkson is incredibly talented. My goal here is to present alternatives to people who normally would gravitate to music such as these.

So while we're on the subject of music that I listen to that people make fun of, let's talk about one of my all time favorite musicians, Lisa Loeb.

The Jewish Singer/Songwriter from Dallas, Texas has in addition to her five studio albums and two reality TV shows, the distinction of being the only unsigned artist to score a #1 single on the US charts. That song, Stay (I Miss You) from the Reality Bites soundtrack) launched her career and her life in the public eye.

Lisa has spent the past 10+ years artfully crafting her unique brand of pop/folk music. Her songs are sweet and her voice is dynamic. She has a gift for matching her sensitive lyrics with equally delicate music. Songs like Take Me Back, Hand Me Down, Did That, She's Falling Apart and Do You Sleep are mere examples of the talent that runs through her veins.

Lisa's music portrays the need she clearly has for wearing her heart on her sleeve. Her lyrics are honest and thoughtful, caring and delicate. Her music is folky at times, hard rocking at others. She travels through the hills and valleys of tempo like a master trekker hiking across Nepal.

And to top it all off, she's single and looking to get married. Her recent reality show on E! #1 Single documented the troubles a Jewish single girl has trying to date in New York City (when followed by a TV crew). The show is as entertaining as the music is.
Recommended songs: Stay (I Miss You), Take Me Back, Hand Me Down, Did That, She's Falling Apart and Do You Sleep

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What's wrong with today, today?

So I was actually not planning to post today. Even though I didn't post yesterday and Monday's post sucked (according to at least one person who loves to throw his two cents into every conversation about music even though I doubt he's ever listened to a song that isn't easily identifiable as brit pop or appears on the UK indie charts). Truth is, I haven't been feeling so well lately so I didn't feel much like spending time in front of my computer. But I decided to get off my lazy ass and walk the foot and a half from my couch to my computer to write about music. So, I'm going to write, but keep it short.

With no research whatsoever done on the subject, I'm going to boldly predict that one of the most underrated American band over the past 10 years has got to be the Goo Goo Dolls. Although they've had a string of hits over the course of time, they don't come to mind when topics such as "Best American Band Over The Past 10 Years" are discussed. And why not? They seem to have all the components of a successful band. Awesome lyrics, awesome guitar hooks, an awesome pop sound, a lead singer that a lot of girls think is awesomely hot, awesomely powerful ballads, and an awesome array of number 1 singles. I don't need to add all those adjectives up to tell you what thier sum is.

Sadly though, the Goo Goo's new album Let Love In won't propel the band into the status of Oasis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Matchbox 20 or any other of thier contemporaries. It's not because the new album isn't good, which is it, but it’s not anything different than the band has produced so far. It's the same damn thing we’ve all heard before.

Better Days, Stay With You and Give a Little Bit (a cover of the Supertramp song) have already charted on the US pop charts and Let Love In, probably the strongest song on the album, is currently rising the chart. These songs all sound well written, with that undertone of longing that the Goo Goo's have used for years to propel people to buy thier albums. Like most of thier albums, the songs here are either hard-rock ballads or slow punk tunes, as always, depending on whether guitarist/vocalist Johnny Rzeznik writes the song or bassist Robby Takac does. But also like the bulk of thier music catalog, the songs are good.

With this album, the Goo Goo Dolls take another step into a successful music career, just not a step into greatness.
Recommended Songs: Let Love In, Better Days, Feel The Silence

When I was thinking about writing this piece, I was going to talk about the new Live album along with the Goo Goo Dolls one. But I think I saw both bands on tour together at PNC in like 1998 or something. Figured it would be too cheesy to combine them, and I haven't really had the time to listen to the Live album yet anyways. Too bad. But expect it.