What I’m reading, watching and listening to on the World Wide Web

I will start off with my friend Wayne’s radio show, “North of the Border.”

His show plays nothing but the best in modern Canadian music, hence the title, as it broadcasts out of New York State (Troy to be exact). It can be heard Saturday nights at 7 p.m. Eastern Time (North America) on Exit 97.7 WEXT. However it can also be streamed live, through their website, or using the TuneIn radio app on numerous different platforms (iOS, Android, Blackberry, etc).

Canadian Music Hall of Fame

Oscar Peterson is, quite simply, one of the greatest virtuosos in jazz.

Head on over to their blog for some good reads. Also, check out the featured artists, Oscar Peterson being one right now. Listen to his music, and your IQ will slowly rise. And check out all manner of other great Canadian music!

Sinéad O’Connor: ‘I define success differently’ @ The Guardian

O’Connor has spent the past 25 years forcing onlookers to take sides: depending on your tastes, she’s either an attention-seeker whose capricious behaviour has taxed fans’ loyalty for years, or one of pop’s bravest artists.

First Take: Little Scream @ mtv.ca
Spotlight on Little Scream’s Laurel Sprengelmeyer. Yet another talented emerging Montreal artist!

Drum Fill Friday @ NPR
On my first try, I think I got them all in 7 or 8 tries after listening to them all. The Beatles one was the only one that was really easy for me!

Red Hot Chili Peppers Release Interactive Music Video @ Warner Bros Records
Pretty cool!

Lastly, I first heard this during the new G.I. Joe trailer, a movie that I will not see, but the music within, a remix of “Seven Nation Army” by The Glitch Mob is very sweet!

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Spring cleaning: Best synthline of 2011

Spring cleaning!

I have numerous posts that I started, and ended up as drafts, never to be published, so, with this spring cleaning feature, some of them will get to see the light of day! And by that I mean get read by a few people on the internet!

This post was one I meant to post a few weeks into this year, as I did not do a best of 2011 list (as I mention in the post), but I never really finished it properly.

I am writing this presently not knowing exactly how many drafts I have that were posts in progress that I stopped working on, or gave up on (or forgot!), but surely I have a few others. I may polish them off a little, but for the most part, I will leave them closer to draft than a post ready to be published. This one I pretty much finished as it was almost done (music geek alert on this one!). So, without further ado, spring cleaning post one:


Okay, this could be my post about selling out, as it features only very much commercial music. However there are some good aspects to some, and some talented people behind them, producers, and the like, but still far from quality singer-songwriter stuff, or music made by a mere handful or less of people. Regardless, a lot of people like this, that is why it is commercial, and sells (why, that could be another post!).

I did not do a post about the best music of 2011, as I did not feel I had a chance to listen to enough, so this post was in my head, over a month late though, oh well!

I also do listen to electronic music, however not enough to have any specific synth line/part stick out (and we generally hear the commercial stuff played way too many times!).

#1

Without a doubt, the best for me is Lady Gaga’s “Judas”. Commencing 22 (or at :56 in the music video) seconds in mixed with kick drum takes it, hands down. The hard kick definitely helps! I will avoid going too much in-depth, but the sheer amount of synth in this, and differentiating synths and effects is impressive. There is even some retro 80s sounding synth buried in there! I’d definitely love to hear the isolated tracks of this one! “Judas” is either 124 or 130 BPM.

#2

I am a little biased, so I give the number two spot to Britney Spears’ “Till the World Ends” (take note, it is till, not ’til, how it should be!). Pre-chorus starting at :39 is pretty good, as it is just Britney singing (with some auto-tune) over the synth. The chorus, if it can be called that (Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh oh, etc), is good too, starting at :54. All in all a good one, with a standard song structure, just a bit messed up with the aforementioned chorus, and the song title is not sung until the end. As per the sheet music, “moderately fast with solid backbeat”, 132 BPM. Ke$ha was one of the songwriters on this one.

#3

I say I am biased, as I gave Britney number two, when it should have been Jennifer Lopez’s “On the Floor”. Starting at :44 (based on the music video) is cool, and then the kick drum. I could do without Pitbull’s rapping, that’s where the instrumental version comes in! The main slow synth, 1:47 and other instances is not so bad, ambient if anything. “On the Floor” is 130 BPM.

“Judas” and “On the Floor” were both produced by RedOne (Lady Gaga co-produced her track). While “Till the World Ends” was produced by Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and Billboard (who is apparently from Montreal! I need to bug him to show me the ropes of electronic music, again, another story!).

#4

Number four is Dev’s “In the Dark”. This one is good throughout, however, at 1:13 – 1:24 (based on the single, also 2:11 – 2:25, or when she sings the verse starting with “On my waist, through my hair”) is a cool bass synth bit (It is actually used at the start of the song too, but the latter two either are slightly different, an effect added or removed, I cannot say for sure!). Oh, and 2:47 – 3:05 is good too, with some analog sounds in there too! The horn track heard in the track is reminiscent of “Calabria 2007” by Enur feat. Natasja. And this is another good one for the instrumental (that is how I picked up the specific parts I liked)! The main bassline during the verses MAY even be a REAL bass guitar! BPM here is 120.

Honourable mention to Rihanna’s “We Found Love” ft. Calvin Harris, for the ascending synth right after the chorus (or “We found love in a hopeless place x 4) the first time. And also one more time towards the end. I am guessing his name was attached to sell records. Aside from writing and producing, he is not singing on the track to my knowledge! “We Found Love” clocks in at 120 BPM.

Another Beatles post #2

I picked up the book A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song by Steve Turner, and in the preface he described what the book is not, and then what it is (basically only the story behind the songs). In describing what it is not, he pointed the reader to other books. That is what this post is about, a few other Beatles books of interest as Steve Turner sees fit to describe what is not in his book.

This is post two (as the subject suggests). The first goes back a little over a year, it was about Beatles albums that did not make Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time, read that post: Another Beatles post.

The first one is the one that would interest me the most, but it seems to be difficult to find now!

All are linked to Wikipedia’s ISBN book search (from which library catalogues from around the world and more can be searched), save for the first, which goes to the Wikipedia article about the book itself.

Who played on what session: The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn, who is apparently the world’s leading Beatles expert!

Musicological take: Twilight of the Gods, by Wilfrid Mellers or Revolution in the Head by Ian McDonald

What Paul was saying: Paul McCartney: From Liverpool To Let it Be by Howard DeWitt

John’s intellectual development: The Art and Music of John Lennon by John Robertson or John Lennon’s Secret by David Stuart Ryan.

Women innovating in music today

In celebration of International Women’s Day, I am writing this post, which I have had in my head for a while, but today is the perfect day to write and post it! So today’s artists, St. Vincent, and fellow 4AD labelmate tUnE-yArDs (and maybe a bonus or two at the end!).

I will start with Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent. I first got to know her when she performed on Austin City Limits, back on October 24, 2009. That was a few months after she released her second album, Actor.

She plays a mix of indie-pop meets baroque pop, or the other way around. Her guitar, along with numerous effects pedals play a very important part of her work. And along with her guitar work, her arrangements are superb as well!

Prior to recording her own material as St. Vincent, she was a part of the Tim DeLaughter (of Tripping Daisy fame) collective known as The Polyphonic Spree. It would seem she did not record with them, only tour, as she joined in 2004 after they released their second album, and left before they released their third album in 2007. She played guitar with the group. Annie then went on to join Surfjan Steven’s touring band briefly, and not long after that, in 2007, she released her debut, Marry Me.

Music video break. St. Vincent’s latest, “Cheerleader”.

Now, promoting her third album, Strange Mercy, Annie Clark has really come into her own with St. Vincent. Quite the talented guitar player (and multi-instrumentalist), singer, songwriter, and performer!

Next, Merrill Garbus, better known by her stage name, tUnE-yArDs. Merrill actually started her music career here in Montreal (where this blog is based!), yet I only really got to know her when her second album, w h o k i l l came out. Her first album was recorded on a handheld voice recorder, and it is noticeable at times (if not all the time depending how one looks at it versus the very polished popular music of today), but it actually fits well. The genre is hard to nail down, but it is a lot of experimental pop using plenty of loops.

Music video break. tUnE-yArDs’ “Bizness” from w h o k i l l

Her second album relies a fair amount on loops as well, however it was recorded professionally. When I saw Merrill doing a symposium at Pop Montreal last year (last paragraph), she explained how she is involved in a singing collective (or something along those lines) that explores various singing styles of the world. She also stated how she is looking to moving away from using looping. The future is bright for tUnE-yArDs!

Both St. Vincent and tUnE-yArDs are definitely innovating in today’s music scene!

Bonus:

For another great guitar playing woman, I recommend checking out Marnie Stern‘s work. I have only listened to her most recent self-titled effort from 2010. It took a few listens, but I quite enjoy it! Her accompanying style is experimental/indie rock, but her technical guitar playing skills makes the music all that more unique, not unlike St. Vincent!

Check out “Transformer” from her 2008 album, This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That.

Lastly, another guitar playing female, Anna Calvi, who just released her debut at the start of 2011. Anna is British, whereas St. Vincent, tUnE-yArDs, and Marnie Stern are all American. Her distinct dark voice, at times sultry, and at times even Shirley Bassey once again create an element to the music that makes it very distinct!

Check out “Suzanne and I”.