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Music Video Spotlight: “Pelvis Pusher” by Vintage Trouble

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If you took James Brown and put him together with guitar riffs reminiscent of early rock n’ roll, then you’d have the band Vintage Trouble. The band members include singer Ty Taylor, Nalle Colt providing backing vocals and guitar, Rick Barrio Dill providing backing vocals and bass guitar, and Richard Danielson providing drums, percussion and backing vocals.

In 2012, the band released their debut album The Bomb Shelter Sessions and released their Swing House Acoustic Sessions earlier this year. I recommend both if you like this video for the track “Pelvis Pusher”, which is a bonus track from an encore edition of The Bomb Shelter Sessions.

While this is not one of my favorite tracks, I do enjoy the video. It reminds me of those 50’s or 60’s high school dances where the kids are dancing to Bill Hailey and The Comets or a similar band. It’s a fun video where people are auditioning to be dancers for the band. If the song and that scene doesn’t get you up on your feet, then the scene with the band performing in the gym in front of a dancing crowd will.

Written by Serena Zola

December 21, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Summer Music Spotlight: Afropunk and Black Nerdcore Rappers

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A couple of months ago, I did a post on my top ten Afropunk musicians. Since then, I’ve discovered more Afropunk musicians as well as black nerd core rappers. If you want to get in the know about the newest Afropunk music, go to the Afropunk website and sign up for an account. By doing this, you’ll also subscribe to a free weekly newsletter that will be emailed to you.

When it comes to black nerdcore rappers, it was something I discovered via a post on For Harriet, the blog I’m interning for. Nerdcore is basically rap music about nerdy things like video games and comics as well as other subjects. It may or may not use chiptune, the sound you hear on classic Nintendo Games.

While nerdcore is dominated by white males, there are some black ones too. I’ll get to them later on in this post. For now, let’s get the Afropunk musicians out the way. I’ll even let you know about free downloads if the musicians have any.

1. Maimouna Youssef

Genre: Rap, jazz, pop, soul, spoken word

Some Favorite Songs: I’m A Woman, We’re Already Royals, Tell My StoryBasquiat The Concrete/All Shea Everything

Free Downloads:  The Reintroduction of Mumu Fresh Mixtape

2. Chargaux

Genre: classical with elements of other genres

Some Favorite Songs:  All The PartiesGreat Expectations

Free Downloads: The Gallerina Suites

3. Purple Ferdinand

Genre: Folk

Some Favorite Songs: BirdsWasn’t Taught To

Free Downloads: DragonFly EP (click free download and use your email or Facebook to get it)

4. Estere

Genre: soul with elements of hip-hop and electronica

Some Favorite Songs: I Spy, Reptilian Journey, Culture ClashPity

Free Downloads: Estere mixtape

5. The Objex

Genre: punk rock

Some Favorite Songs: GG. Social Disease, R.S.V.P.

Free Downloads: R.S.V.P. (see above link), Toxic Waste Girl

6.  Cody ChestnuTT

Genre:  soul, funk, blues, rock

Some Favorite Songs: I’ve Been Life, That’s Still Mama, Under The Spell of The Handout

Free Download: Landing on a Hundred (on the right, click Free Mp3  and then Free Download)

Black Nerdcore Rappers

1. Sammus

Some Favorite Songs: Fly Nerd, Cybernetic Armor, America

Free Downloads: Fly Nerd EP, America (see above link)

2.  Mega Ran

Some Favorite Songs: Chun Li (with Ryu Black and Masia One),  Maya’s Song, Infinite Lives (featuring D&D Sluggers)

Free Downloads:  Maya’s Song (see above link), Infinite Lives (see above link)





Live Performance Spotlight: “Can’t Rely on You” (Acoustic) by Paloma Faith

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In case you haven’t heard of Paloma Faith, she is a soulful singer from the UK who is going to release her third album ‘A Perfect Contradiction’ on March 10th. The song “Can’t Rely On You” will be featured on the new album. For more on her past work, check out this Paloma Faith Buzzfeed post I made last month using my real name.

One of the things I love about this performance is that it is in an actual kitchen! With pots, pans, and no audience! When I saw the link, I thought the performance was going to be on a cooking show. I also love how Faith’s pianist comes on-screen and creates funky beats with a saucepan and wooden spoon.

In addition, the performance is classy (as usual) and low-key. The matching plaid everyone is wearing is so cool and the kitchen setting makes the performance more intimate with viewers.

Lastly, the energy is awesome. You can see and hear it in Faith’s voice and backing band.  The little dancing that they are doing makes you want to get up and join them!

Written by Serena Zola

February 17, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Musician Spotlight: Janis Joplin

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Janis Joplin

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I don’t want to end this year without attempting to get some people my age hooked on late sixties singer Janis Joplin.

I decided to give her music a try a few months ago when I found myself looking for more soulful singers to listen to. I can’t remember the first Janis Joplin song I enjoyed. After listening to almost all her albums, it felt like all the emotion in her voice had blended into one howling note.

Her voice is raspy yet extremely powerful and soulful. While I didn’t like all of her songs, I admired the fact that Joplin could sing rock, blues, funk, soul, and country. Most of her live performances are great and some are better than the album version.

Combined together with the lyrics, her voice is deeply moving. While Joplin didn’t write all of the songs, her voice makes it sound like she did.

At the same time, songs that Joplin did write are touching because of how honest her voice and lyrics are. Some of my favorite songs are “Turtle Blues“, “Kosmic Blues” “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)” and “Cry Baby“.

Besides Joplin’s voice and lyrics, I related to who she was as a person.

According to a documentary on Joplin, she had a tough time during and after high school. At school, she was bullied for being overweight and she was considered an outcast for being artsy and liking black people.

Things didn’t seem to get better, even when she became famous. Not only was she insecure because of high school and numerous rejections, but she had to deal with the pressure that came from being a woman in rock n’ roll.

By the time she was about to create what would be her final album Pearl, she had created an alter-ego of the same name to go with it. I really liked her as Pearl; her outfit on the album’s cover looked cool.  Yet, Joplin seemed to smile only on the outside.

After learning that she passed away at the age of 27, I felt as sad as I did when I became a fan of Amy Winehouse. Just like with Winehouse’s music, I wished Joplin could have put out more albums before she passed.

I love Janis Joplin’s music just as much as I love Amy Winehouse’s music. I admire Joplin pouring  her heart and soul into her music and for showing that women without the ideal image can be successful.

Written by Serena Zola

December 4, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Album Review: The Electric Lady by Janelle Monáe

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The Electric Lady, Janelle Monae

Source: Wikipedia

The Electric Lady is Monáe’s follow-up to 2010’s The Arch Android. It is the fourth and fifth chapters of the futuristic sci-fi saga Metropolis. Guest on the album include Prince, Erykah Badu, Miguel, Solange, and Esperanza Spalding.  While this album has a more urban sound than the previous installment, it still manages to showcase Monáe’s skill as a vocalist, lyricist, and producer.

The most notable thing about the album is its sound. While it is still eclectic somewhat, it is mostly soul, funk, jazz, and R& B. While it may polarize fans of her idiosyncratic sound, it will also gain Monáe fans. A notable track with a Motown girl-group throwback sound is “Dance Apocalyptic”.

In addition to Monáe’s sound being centered, her lyrics are more focused on one thing: love. Tracks such as “Q.U.E.E.N.” “Electric Lady”, and “Ghetto Woman” focus on empowering women with self-love, while songs such as “PrimeTime”, and “Dorothy Danridge Eyes” focus on love for someone else. Other songs such as “Victory” and “What an Experience” focus on loving life overall.

While the thoughts on different aspects of love are interesting, a disappointing factor is the lack of the original concept in the lyrics. Unlike on the previous album, there is barely any mention of Monáe’s alter-ego Cindy Merryweather and her lover Sir Greendown. If Monáe was going for a more plain approach, then fine. However, those who are following the saga of Metropolis may feel a bit confused.

Finally,  Monáe’s vocals are much richer on this album than her previous one. Maybe it is because she is doing genres best suited for her voice, but Monáe is reminiscent of  Diana Ross and Erykah Badu. Some of best songs vocally are “Givin Em What They Love” and “Look Into My Eyes”.

This album is great for contemporary urban music fans. If you couldn’t get into  Janelle Monáe before, then feel free to give her another chance.

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Written by Serena Zola

September 9, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Musician Spotlight: Amy Winehouse

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

On July 23, 2013, it will be the two-year anniversary of the death of singer Amy Winehouse. For me, someone who became a fan a few months ago, her death feels like it happened yesterday.  To become a fan of her and then realize you can never experience being a fan like those who listened to her before her death is a sad shock.

In fact, I’m still surprised that I became a fan of her music at all. Jazz, r &b, and soul aren’t exactly my favorite genres of music. These genres were actually up my dad’s alley. Sadly, it was my father’s death that caused me to look up her music. At the time, I needed to look up music for my father’s funeral service and Winehouse’s  was the first thing I thought of.

However, I mistakenly thought that the song “Valerie” was originally done by Amy Winehouse. The song had piqued my interest in 2011 when I saw Bruno Mars do an excellent tribute performance of the song to honor Winehouse. It took some snide comments about Winehouse on YouTube  and some research to see that Amy recorded a cover version of the song.

We ended up using piano music for my dad’s funeral. Nonetheless, Amy Winehouse still intrigued me. Her voice was so lovely and soulful, it made me melt.  Soon, I ended up listening to Frank and Back to Black, the two albums Amy released during her lifetime. I also found out that Amy’s alcohol and drug use were the cause of the snide YouTube comments.

Both Frank and Back to Black impressed me. Not only were the vocals great, but the lyrics were amazingly creative. One song I remember sticking to me instantly was “Fuck Me Pumps”. I thought the song would be about Amy’s shoes, but discovered that the subject was actually the irony of whorish women.  Furthermore, the song wasn’t jazz; it had a hip-hop vibe. As I read the lyrics while listening to the song I thought, “Amy Winehouse’s cheekiness is so cool.”

Another song that made an impression on me was  “Back to Black”. I was moving my head to the rhythm when it stops. Suddenly, I hear heartbeats and then Amy’s voice solemnly singing, “Blackkk…. Blackkkk” with a bell tolling in the background. It gave me goosebumps! Then I thought, “Man, this is so sad, but so good.”

Finally, I looked up Winehouse’s performances for the songs I really liked. They were pretty good. Amy’s vocals were far from perfect, but they satisfied me. Most of the time, Amy did her best to give a good performance. She sang and danced a little while sipping a drink thanking her backup singers and band from time to time. Although, I think that some of her best work is her acoustic performances.

However, there were times that I was badly shocked by Amy. I looked at her 2008 Glastonbury concert for twenty minutes on YouTube and then couldn’t watch anymore. She looked so skinny, pained, and out of it. I remember cringing as I watched her struggle to perform and thought, “What the heck happened to you?” The concert lead me to try to research more about her, but there weren’t a lot of decent articles about her. The best I could do was the 2007 Rolling Stone cover story, which made me feel sorry for her.

In the end, Amy Winehouse was a great musician who fused the sounds of the past with the present. However, she was also a human being who conveyed vulnerability, emptiness, depression, and self-hatred. She tried to pour her humanity into her songs, but it wasn’t enough.  And so, she left us. I hope she’s happier now and knows that she will be forever loved and missed.

Here is a video of Amy performing her song “Love is a Losing Game” at the DL Show

Written by Serena Zola

April 14, 2013 at 2:41 PM

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