Monthly Archives: June 2010

Sergio Vega "El Shaka" (September 12, 1969 – June 26, 2010)

The bullet-ridden body of Sergio Vega, aka “El Shaka,” was laid to rest yesterday.  Vega is only the latest in a growing list of narcocorrido singers to fall to drug war related violence in the northern states of Mexico.

Narcocorridos are songs that often glorify the exploits of those in the drug trade (think Outlaw country or Gangsta rap but with polka).

The life of a narcocorrido singer can be highly lucrative, since rich gangsters – who make profits estimated at 3,000 per cent on drugs smuggled from Central and South America, where they are produced, to the USA where they are largely consumed – are prepared to pay tens of thousands of dollars to be immortalised in specially- commissioned songs.

It isn’t exactly a safe line of business to be in, though. A singer who writes catchy songs honouring the criminal activities of one gang immediately puts himself somewhere near the top of the hit-list of rival syndicates, who dislike seeing praise publicly heaped upon their enemies. Vega was no exception. A translation of the chorus of one of his recent hits reads: “I’m going to ask you a favour/Shaka told his people/I want to have some coca paste processed/Because that’s what the customer wants/At the end if it rains and I get wet/You will get wet as well.”

In gangster argot, “making it rain” means to shower bullets on a victim. (The Independent)

The following is the video for one of Vega’s recent hits, “Cuando el Sol Salga al Reves” (When the Sun Rises in Reverse):

“Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.  It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.” -Albert Einstein (on alcohol prohibition)

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Senator Robert Byrd (November 20, 1917 – June 28, 2010)

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Someone's Missing (and I'm going on vacation)

1-up is a regular feature in which we drop a quarter into music we had once written off.

My relationship with MGMT’s first album was dicey: I liked “Electric Feel,” was vaguely annoyed by “Kids,” and outright hated “Time to Pretend” (which really feels part and parcel of the Road Trip soundtrack). I listened to the rest of the album, maybe once, with no enthusiasm.

What didn’t register was the weirdo prog tracks. And when I first listened to their sophomore album, Congratulations, I reacted in surprised glee: “This’ll show those MGMT fanboys and girls that I was right all along: self-indulgent crap.”

And then I heard “Brian Eno” on the radio, couldn’t place it, and found myself wondering what band made such a fun trip of a track. And then I heard “Someone’s Missing” on the radio and I knew I was in trouble. Several listens of the albums later, and I’m tentatively recommending this album. There’s still a lot of indulgence (“I Found a Whistle”, the last seven minutes of “Siberian Breaks,” “Lady Dada’s Nightmare”), but there a lot of good and several great tracks. Righteous influences abound (Broadcast, United States of America, 70s Beach Boys, et al). And even the indulgence is growing on me.

I’ve been playing “Someone’s Missing” tirelessly on repeat for a few weeks. I love its spectral steeliness and the way it flutters with oddball instrumentation (electric sitar, organ, harp) for the first two minutes. And then it explodes into an ecstatic march, with the faint hint of funk guitar underneath.

But man, becoming a MGMT fan is exhausting, so I’m going on vacation. But don’t worry, after July 4th, what’s extinct will come alive.

Buy Congratulations on Amazon

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Owen Pallett's Elemental Devotion.

If one video could build a dedicated fan base, the one below is probably it. The video records Owen Pallett performing “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” in the middle of a storm, despite the concert techs’ attempts to get him off stage. I imagine everyone at the show that night will be life-long fans of Pallett. It is charming to see a musician so young and full of elan that he won’t let the elements get between him and his violin (call me a girl, but I get overwhelmed with emotion and teary-eyed each time I watch this  and witness his moxie and showmanship).

Finding this video is good timing, as he’d already begun to win me over via the song, (underwhelming) remixes of which were released on Rdio yesterday. Somehow, I had casually passed over his full release Heartland, which I will now pay greater attention to.

P.S. Intentional or no, I’d like to read this video as Owen Pallett’s eff-off to Chan Marshall (Catpower). But since he might not like being used as a pawn in my unidirectional musical wars, I’ll offer this video up myself as evidence of how a musician behaves during live performances when he’s devoted to both his fans and his music.

Owen Pallett: “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”

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Hey, baby, wanna kill all humans?

Good news, everybody! Futurama, incredibly, has returned to us tonight.  To commemorate the event, NoiseNarcs-style, I’m posting Pierre Henry‘s “Psyché Rock” from his 1967 musique concréte ballet, Messe Pour Le Temps Presént (Mass for the Present-day).  “Psyché Rock” was Christopher Tyng’s inspiration for Futurama‘s theme song in the same way that “Under Pressure” was the inspiration for “Ice Ice Baby.”

Pierre Henry, “Psyche Rock”

“Oh, dear, I should have shown him Electrogonorrhea: the Noisy Killer instead.” –Prof. Farnsworth

Feel free to post favorite Futurama quotes in the comments section.

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Possessed. By "Afro-Jive."

I came across this “rare afro-jive” album last Tuesday (Jackpot Jive) and haven’t stopped listening to it, though I’m generally not of the “international music” (as it is labeled) persuasion. I have no idea whether it is actually “afro-jive” or “rare.” In fact, I have gleaned little about the album and its inhabitants online, except that the song I’ve linked to the post is by the Soweto Boys, and Soweto appears both to be a 60s musical form attributed to the South African city of the same name and also the birthplace of Kwaito, a South African hip-hop form that emerged in the Soweto township, which was a locus point for anti-Apartheid struggle.

This album has got me hooked, though, and intrigued. And Soweto has apparently intrigued others, such as Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols. Enlighten me. Unless you are David/bored at work, in which case, write a one-act play about it.

Soweto Boys: “Bayeza, Part I”

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Radiohead to release new album in 2010? Mount Pleasant responds.

In an interview with BBC 6, Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien said this about the progress of their new album:

Ideally, it would be great if it came out sometime this year. It has got to; I hope so. We’re at the finishing line.

[BB6, via Pitchfork]

What say you, New Zealand’s Mount Pleasant?

Yeah, you’re probably right.

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Sun Airway, Johnny Brenda's, Philly, 6/24

Sun Airway,
Johnny Brenda's, Philadelphia, PA
What to drink: Keep it sunny with a Victory or Troegs Pils

Philadelphia’s Sun Airway, whom I’ve mentioned twice so far (and whom I’ll keep mentioning until you all acknowledge their awesomeness), are playing their first show ever on Thurday at Philly’s Johnny Brenda’s. I’m on vacation the next day, so you best believe I’ll be there, excited (and beer=ed) as all get out. Oh, and they’ve tripled to a sextet. And there’s gonna be projections.

And if you don’t come, I’ll just put up a review of the show, so you best shut me up and be there.

Nothing new but to summarize:

Sun Airway, “Waiting on You”
Sun Airway, “Oh Naoko”
Sun Airway, “Put the Days Away”

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and here's the unbeatable original . . .

To complement Chris’ post, below, here is Roy Ayers’ original version, which I love for its disco haze. This is one of those rare songs whose tempo masterfully resonates with its content, as is the case with Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald’ “Summertime,” which I posted a while back.

Roy Ayers: “Sunshine”

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"Just Bees and Things and Flowers"

In Brazil, where Seu Jorge is from, the longest day of the year is in December, but where I’m from it’s today, and the forecast says it’s going to be a hot one.  So hot, in fact, that the meteorologist recommends you find yourself a cool song to get you through it.  Preferably something in the R&B/Funk range.

You might remember Seu Jorge as Pele dos Santos, the safety expert aboard the Belefonte who provided The Life Aquatic with its mostly diegetic score of bossa-nova lite versions of all your favorite Bowie tunes.

For example:

Seu Jorge, “Suffragette City”

Anyway, he’s got a new album coming out at the end of July, Seu Jorge and Almaz, and its first single, a cover of Roy Ayer’s “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” is available for download.  The track is lazy and a little ominous, just like the original, and it’s just the thing to beat the heat for when all you can manage is to sit and sweat.

Seu Jorge, “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”

Buy the full album here when it’s released.

Seu Jorge plays at the Trocadero in Philadelphia on July 28.

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