Eclectic Times Two – alt-J and TV On The Radio

The first thing to know about alt-J is that the band’s name is not alt-J.  If you simultaneously press the “Option” key on your Mac, which also serves as the “alt” key, while pressing the letter “J”, you get the symbol ∆.  That’s the upper case Greek letter Delta, and in an Artist Formerly Known as Prince way, that’s the band’s name. And a triangle makes a great hand sign to hold up at concerts.

Now on to the music. The band released its second album, “This Is All Yours”, in September.  ∆ puts out some pretty eclectic music, but they found their way to a catchy hit with “Left Hand Free”. Check it out and then listen to “Choice Kingdom” to get a feel for the range of material on the album.

TV on the Radio generates an eclectic mix of their own and put out their fifth album, “Seeds”, in November.   Whether you’re a skateboarder or not, you’ll get a kick out of the song and the video for “Lazerray”.  The credits at the end give the names of all the skateboarders and, in a nod to the uncomfortable future, to the drone operator.

While not big chart toppers, the band had a minor hit a few years back with “Will Do”. Nice song with a video featuring what may have been a bad Google Glass prototype.

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Time for Some Fun with Hayseed Dixie, Duck Sauce and The Kinks

Last weekend we were turned on to Hayseed Dixie (drawl it “ACDC”), a bluegrass band dedicated to rock and roll covers.  The video for their version of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” features clips from “The Wild One” starring Marlon Brando.  If you like the band, check out their covers of The Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl”, and especially Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Priceless. Thanks, Paul!

Duck Sauce, the DJ duo of American Armand Van Helden and Canadian A-Trak, released their first full-length album “Quack” in April. It includes new tracks and previously released singles. The video for “It’s You” is a lot of fun, as are the videos for their earlier hits “aNYway” and “Barbra Streisand”.

To cap off the fun video theme, we’ll pay our respects to Ray Davies who celebrated his 70th birthday a few weeks ago. In the early days of video the Kinks put out this one for “Come Dancing”, a single which later appeared on the 1983 album “State of Confusion”.  To illustrate the power of MTV, “Come Dancing” became one of the Kinks’ highest charting singles in the U.S. almost 20 years after “You Really Got Me” got things started.

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Beck’s Back with “Morning Phase”

After a nearly six-year hiatus, Beck aka Beck Hanson real name Bek David Campbell, released his 12th album “Morning Phase” a couple of weeks ago.   Loaded with melodic, acoustic tracks, it’s been receiving critical acclaim – though that’s never been in short supply for Beck.

Here is a performance of “Say Goodbye” from an appearance on The Tonight Show.  If you like it, he also performed “Waking Light”.

Pretty much every music reviewer relates the new album in style and sound to Beck’s 2002 release “Sea Change”, and apparently Beck or his record company connected the two in early press on “Morning Phase”. Decide for yourself – here’s “The Golden Age” from the earlier album.

There are reports that Beck will release yet another album later this year, but likely with a much different sound. He’s put out a few singles recently that might give an indication of what’s in store. Here’s “It Won’t be Long”, and you might also give a listen to “Gimme” to hear him stretch even further to the electronic side.

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2014 Grammy Awards – Mining Gems in the Lesser Known Categories

Last night’s Grammy awards may have delivered a few surprises in the major categories, but our enthusiasm for Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” and its hit song “Get Lucky” were matched by the Recording Academy’s. It was also nice to see a couple of awards go to Dave Grohl for the “Sound City” CD, including one to him and Paul McCartney for the track “Cut Me Some Slack”.

But scrolling way down the nominees and winners list on the Grammy website, you can find some gems that didn’t make the telecast or the mainstream media coverage.

In the Best American Roots Song category, comic genius and banjo player Steve Martin teamed up with Edie Brickell, wife of Paul Simon and former chanteuse of the New Bohemians, to write and perform “Love Has Come For You”.

In the category of Best Instrumental Arrangement, Gordon Goodwin put out a very nice take of the jazz classic “On Green Dolphin Street” performed by his Big Phat Band. Goodwin has won a Grammy before and picked up 13 nominations, and is also a three-time Emmy Award winner for his compositions and arrangements.

Twenty years after the release of Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Cracked Rear View”, the 16th best selling album in U.S. history, frontman Darius Rucker won this year’s Best Country Solo Performance for “Wagon Wheel”.

And finally, Best Traditional R&B Performance went to Gary Clark, Jr. for “Please Come Home”. Though most celebrated for his guitar playing (the solo comes at about 1:35), he shows off a fine falsetto on this tune. To hear Clark at his bluesy, guitar-slinging best (sans falsetto), check out his performance at the White House.

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Singers from Across the Spectrum – St. Lucia and Stacy Barthe

St. Lucia, the stage name of Jean-Philip Grobler, has been getting a lot of exposure recently, performing at Lollapalooza in 2013 and appearing on the late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live.  Grobler grew up in South Africa, singing in the Drakensburg Boys Choir, but now lends his clean vocals to catchy pop electronic tunes laced with harmony vocals from his bandmates.  Here are a couple of live, small studio videos that show off St. Lucia’s unfiltered vocals. Thanks for the recommendation, Eric!

Norwegian music blog Read and Hear recently featured New York singer-songwriter Stacy Barthe. In addition to releasing her own tracks, she’s written songs for Katy Perry, Rihanna, Britney Spears and others. Her voice is certainly as good as anyone she’s been writing for.

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