Thursday, April 26, 2012

Digging the Caves...

Yesterday while digging through the on-line record store crates I like to call the Internet, I came across an unbelievable EP from LA-based producer/singer Luke Cage aka CAVES.  The very first moment I pressed play, my journey for exploring ended.  There was nothing else that I was going to stumble into and find that was more gold than this EP.

"While You Were Partying, I Was Dying," is the first full EP from the Caves.  While only four songs in total, you feel like you listened to an entire full length 12 song LP.  With vibes of 60s soul and funk and keeping up to date with the lo-fi, soul searching vibe that is present in many of today's up and coming bands, you find yourself lost in the moment.  What more is there to ask of a song?  What more is there to ask of a beat?  While many people think that the neo-crooning styles of Cee-lo and Bruno Mars are what is "hip" and "now," they might want to reconsider that fact while listening to Caves.  This is how it is done.  There is no feeling of over-singing.  No notion of trying hard to get the message across.  No feeling that the artist is trying hard.  Caves is simply just doing everything right and doing it beautifully.

The first track "Eleven Twenty" begins with the slow build up that makes me feel like I'm about to watch an important scene in Kill Bill.  Then the voice starts right when the beat picks up and you feel transported to a different era.  The use of the horns is striking and perfect.  It's not trying to over power the song, but fits right where it's supposed to be.  That's what makes this different than the neo-soul singers that are trying to hard.  "Please figure me out, I've waited too long."  Then to follow with "Please figure me out, I've been hated too long."  Nothing strikes emotion like a line like that.

CAVES - Eleven Twenty by Absent Fever

When I first heard the second track "Final Decision", I automatically thought of a different song.  It took me forever to go through my catalog to find the track, but finally I did.  Upon the first 8 seconds of the song, I it reminded me of "Undertow"(edit) by Warpaint.  It was nice to see a song that I liked similar to a new artist I was starting to enjoy.  Then, the differences in the songs appeared fast.  Caves starts crooning.  The song makes me feel like he is trying to explain and justify himself, while apologizing.  This time, instead of ever present horns, the steady use of the drums and keyboards find you relaxing and wishing you sitting on your porch. "If I can write you a song, would you listen."

Caves - Final Decision by boriskostic2

"310" finds the artist mellowing out but picking up a little bit of the tempo.  This track finds a more chillwave vibe to it.  While the keyboards to start make you think of a low key song, the drums start and you find yourself floating in the skies.  With a very Empire of the Sun melodic turn, Caves drastically changes the vibe of the EP.  This is done masterfully.  He doesn't try to over emphasize the song nor the beat.  The piano is what sets the tone and also what keeps the pace and peace.  You would be hard pressed to find another artist that is doing this right now with as much grace and poise as Caves is.

The final track "1993" finds us closing out the EP with the same feel as the opening.  The drumbeat and the keys find that you are automatically thrown into the mix.  As Caves starts singing, you feel dragged in even more.  What I find remarkable is that he still keeps it lo until the hook comes in.  The difference being that the hook is not vocal, but instrumental.  He changes the reverb just enough that you forget there is singing in the song.  That to me is the genius in the song.

Caves - 1993 by Gluttony Is The New Black

While the songs don't have that prolific lyrical content, they have what is needed and that is just enough.  While many neo-crooners are trying to over-emphasize the vocals, and the background singers as well, Caves puts the vocals right where they need to be.  He makes the rhythms the focus and everything else falls right into place where it belongs.  I feel that if this came out in the 60s/70s time frame, you would have heard these songs a long time ago in samples from hip-hop geniuses such as The RZA, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, and others.  What I hope for in the future is more genius lo-fi funk from Caves.

Here is the best part of his music, you can get it free from Absent Fever.  There is a link for the mediafire download page.  Just click and download.  Hope you enjoy it, cause I certainly do.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I will not sign that......

While away on a trip for my grandmother's funeral, I had the pleasure of riding with my cousin Amy and her two wonderful children.  As we were leaving Birmingham, we stopped by a Starbucks to grab some coffee. While I don't drink the stuff, all I could think of was how they have a tip line there.  This got me to thinking about how sad our society is today.  Everyone thinks that whatever they do, deserves a tip.  Well, I have news for you.  You don't.

Unless you work in the restaurant business, and I'm talking about the sit down kind where you take my order and then bring me my food while I sit at a table for 2 hours restaurant business, then you don't deserve a tip.  I'm sorry, you did nothing.

I don't sign tips on the line unless I've received exceptional service at some random place or happen to be at a place that is open until 2 am, like a bar or club.  You see, what you've done is nothing.  I will repeat this just in case you didn't understand me.  You did nothing.  You know what?  I don't think you heard me, so I will yell it a little louder for you:


There, I think you might have heard me now.  It's not that I don't appreciate your work, it's just that you actually did nothing.  I know that it's really hard to turn around and grab my drink for me.  I understand that pressing buttons on a computer is exhausting.  Trust me, I'm exhausted right now.  I get the fact that you have to deal with sometimes grumpy people, but you don't make less than minimum wage.  You don't have to deal with people for hours at a time only to have them complain about the service just to get things discounted.  It's a coffee shop not a five star restaurant.  It's a buffet not a, well you get the point.

I'm not just talking about little neighborhood shops, but also national chains that think that tipping is a requirement.  When I don't sign the extra line, I get a look from people who work there like I'm some sort of asshole.  Well, guess what, I am.  I'm not degrading the work you do, but the idea that a tip is required from all patrons.  Guess what, I got bills too and that stupid extra 2 to 4 dollars adds up over time.

It's a shame that this is the new social responsibility in our society.  Many people have been given handouts for so long, they feel that it is a requirement by all people to continue to do the same.  It's not.  Sorry to break it to you, but it really isn't.  We all work jobs in which our services come with a fee.  That is how you get paid.  When I sign a tip line at a coffee house or a local sandwich shop, who gets the money?  Do you divide it up between all your employees?  Does the guy who cleans the bathrooms get more, since he had to clean the fucking bathroom while you stood there looking stupid?  Does the manager get a cut?  Do you have to declare it in your taxes?  The simple answer to all of this is "no."   Since that is the answer, when I am given that extra line, I write no.

Yes, this makes me an asshole, but get over it.  Our society is so sensitive that you can't tell someone no with out feeling bad.  Guess what, I'm over that shit.  I'm not telling you no because I don't like you.  I'm telling you no because you don't deserve it.  Do you tip the guy for doing your dry cleaning?  Do you tip the lady for making you burger and fries at McDonald's?  Do you tip the kid at the movie theater for giving you your popcorn there tubby?  No, you give them their money for their service and then go about your business.  They don't ask for it because they know they don't deserve it.

So next time you give me a bill with a tip line, don't be mad when I don't sign it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Musical Monday!!!

This past weekend was Record Store weekend.  If you are a partial hipster or into indie music or actually own/collect vinyl, then you know all about it.  If you are none of the above, well you are in luck because I'm gonna let you in on a secret.  There are many bands out there that still release tracks on vinyl.  It is usually an A-B side record with two to four tracks on it.  They are usually collectors items and rarefied gems from bands.  Sometimes it is the only place to be able to hear a certain song ever.

It is a truly awesome feeling when you finally get your hands on to a piece of music that isn't out yet.  While this makes me sound like a hipster douche bag, I am.  I have no problem with saying that.  This weekend we saw about 45 bands release new vinyl.  I'm sure if you go into any local record store, they should be sold out of all of it.

So as we get closer to the summer and end of spring, the amount of new music to hit the streets is going to be unreal.  Usually there is an inordinate number of bands with new music out, but it seems that this year might be one of the best in recent memory.  Mostly because it's been about 2 years since many had their last release.  My personal most anticipated is the new Beach House album "Bloom."  If you haven't ever heard their music or of them, this is the B-side from their record day release:

Beach House - Equal Mind by Turntable Kitchen

It's an awesome song and then it ends.  That is the part that makes me mad and sad at the same time.  You get sucked into the loop and the beat and then it's over.  There is no dramatic downtime to take you out of the song.  Nothing to get you ready for the next track.  That though is what makes it an awesome track.  Very melodic and beautifully sung.  They are on tour right now and I plan on going to see them.  (Fingers crossed).  If you get the chance, go see them.  By your tickets early because IT WILL sell out. (I tried to get my cousin tickets as a thank you gift and it was sold out.  Stupid B-ham hipsters.  Stealing a night from my cousin.)

Fiona Apple - "Every Single Night"As for another release of equal taste and absence is the new Fiona Apple album.  You remember her, right?  The one of "This is all bullshit" fame.  The sometimes sickly skinny chick who wails in her songs about a hurt you can never understand but feel slightly familiar with.  She performed at South x Southwest in Austin this year and crushed it.  This is the first release from her new album "The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw, And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do."  Just a small mouthful of a title, but you get the point of the title quickly.  Her new album comes out in June.  I might actually buy this one.

Every Single Night by fionaapple

As it is a slightly dreary day here in Charlotte, I find that songs like this actually fit my mood today very well.  Sometimes you just need a song that is both chill and hip at the same time.  Something to relax and relieve you.  Something that says "Play me.  And play me a lot."

Sunday, April 1, 2012

This morning I got a phone call from my mother informing me that my grandmother had passed away.  My grandmother was 98 years old.  Her name was Virginia Boyd Rogers. 

I don't have many memories of my grandparents from my childhood.  My cousins could write and write and write about how much they remember her and my grandfather.  It's not that I don't remember, it's just that I was very young for the many times I got to see them.  I grew up in Washington, DC until I was 15 years old.  Grandmother lived in Center, TX and Shreveport, LA.  My brother and I were military kids, so usually we spent either the summer visiting our father where ever he was stationed or getting a small trip into seeing our grandparents.  All of the other cousins/grandchildren lived in Lousiana, so traveling home was easier for them.  I guess.

Most of my memories of Grandmother are from when I was about hip high or college age.  There aren't many of them inbetween.  The few I have are very foggy and vague.  The older kids in the family could tell you about the amazing times we had at the house in Center.  For me, it is not about the loss of my grandmother that makes me sad.  Its also the idea of the final loss of some of those memories.  I remember going to Center at Christmas or Thanksgiving and Grandfather cutting the bird for dinner.  I remember playing in the house in the little room that connected to the garage/storage room.  I remember playing games with Tim down there.  I remember the pachinko game Grandfather had.  I know the pictures that have surfaced from our childhoods show how much fun we all had at that house.

Years and years ago, my grandfather passed away.  I remember vaguely my mom getting the news and Phil (my stepfather) consoling her.  I remember that she went to the funeral and the three men stayed at home.  There became a bit of a gap in time for me for memories about my personal visits and then I recalled the trips to Shreveport.  I remember the townhouse that Grandmother lived in.  I thought it amazing how she would pick us up from the airport and drive us home.  How you would walk into the living room first.  The tv in the corner on wheels.  The fireplace and mantel for a fireplace that would never be used.  The assorted books and bric-a-brac around the bookcases.  I loved how after going upstairs and putting my stuff in the bedroom, I would sit in a parlour chair that you would just sink into.  I loved how there was always a sangria or wine on the island counter in the kitchen.  There was the little side room that had the piano.  I always wondered about rooms like that in people houses.  Was it for decorations?  Would she play anytime she felt that urge?

What I loved about my visits to Grandmother's when I was older was the randomness of some of her stories.  How she just got back from Puerto Rico or some other island nation.  How involved it seemed to me that she was with the D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution).  Now in retrospect what I am most amazed about is my grandmothers (my Mom and Dad's) is how strong and independent they are.  My Dad's dad passed when my Dad was 11.  I've only known my Dad's mom to be strongly self sufficient.  My Mom's mom seemed to be able to handle any and everything herself after Grandfather passed away.  I love that trait in my family.  I love that about Southern women.  Always having a strength that very little Southern men can attain.

Years ago we had a family get together for Grandmother's bday.  I've written about it and I love that visit.  I loved how much the family had grown and grown.  How all of us were college kids and beyond.  How much our parents were enjoying being adults, while we were just learning how to be one.  I loved how we all drank and drank and had a good time.  Then I remembered how much Grandmother loved us being there as well.

My cousins will write about how amazing she was.  Tim and Amy both lived in Shreveport for an extended time and in Grandmother's house.  I'm jealous of their attachment to her. That's a bad way to say it.  I wish that I had that.  I wish I knew this woman who loved a Navy man.  Who traveled around the world because of his job.  Who no matter what, kept her family rooted.  A lady who raised four amazing kids and set them all off into the world full of hope and love.  I wish I wasn't so self involved and ran off to a side room to read or watch something stupid on tv and actually sat there and listened.  I wish, but what I have I am happy for.