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Thursday, January 29, 2009

What I'm currently listening to . . .

Sometimes I get asked about what music I'm currently listening to, but it's difficult for me to answer in one swoop since it usually varies greatly. Thinking about a lot of different music all at the same time just overwhelms me if I try to consolidate on the spot, but with a bit of time, I've been able to think it through and compile a nice list of music with accompanying videos. Within the last couple of months, my latest musical inspirations are a mix of the old and new (very few being remotely related, if at all, to the new MuteMath songs):

1. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
I originally hated this band when I saw them for the first time perform a song from Strawberry Jam on Conan. Now, I consider myself very open to all kinds of music, especially experimental music, but, as David St. Hubbins in Spinal Tap sharply states, "It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever." I guess I thought they fell on the stupid side that night, or maybe I just didn't get it back then. But, on this album, with all its melodic, psychedelic beauty, they've definitely landed on the clever side this time around.

2. The Beatles - Revolver
This well-known classic is always in my rotation, with "I'm Only Sleeping" (this reminds of those precious moments before having to get up to go to school/work), "Yellow Submarine" (I sing it often to my son), "For No One" (love the instrumentation), & "Tomorrow Never Knows" (a track I will forever gather inspiration from and forever long to create my own version of but probably never will get there).

3. Bloc Party - Intimacy
Not as good as Silent Alarm or A Weekend In The City, but still has some great tracks, namely "Mercury," "Biko" & "One Month Off." They were one of the best live bands I saw at European festivals when we were over there; unfortunately, not too many good videos out there.

4. Camaron de la Isla - La Leyenda del Tiempo
Probably the best flamenco cantaor (singer) to walk the face of the earth: even if you don't like flamenco, you can't deny his unique phrasing, elegant intensity, & duende.

5. Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um
Oh Mingus! what can I say about such a giant? He changed the way I listened to music; inspired me to play bass & compose; and reinvented American music.

6. The Cure - Boys Don't Cry
This album takes me right back to junior high. I still have the vinyl, and repeatedly study it.

7. David Bowie - Low
This album takes me right back to high school, the 10th grade. My theater teacher introduced me to this, and encouraged me to use it as the soundtrack for one of our productions. Notable tracks: "Breaking Glass," "Sound & Vision," "Be My Wife," "Warszawa," & "Subterraneans." I realized much later that it released the year of my birth 1977, and that Brian Eno had a lot to do with the sound of this record.

8. Diego El Cigala - Entre Vareta Y Canasta
I first heard "El Cigala" playing with Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes on t.v., doing an incredible version of "Lagrimas Negras." He has a rich voice, by which he moves my soul. I bought this album in New Orleans while writing the new album.

9. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
After making it to the top of most of 2008 best music lists, I had to take a closer look, and I like what I've heard. I thought they killed it on SNL.

10. Grizzly Bear - Yellow House
Introduced to me by our old publicist Frank Nieto, I fell in love with this album while on the road about two years ago, and it is a constant on my playlist. Here's their Letterman performance:

11. John Lennon - Imagine
I recently watched the film U.S. vs. John Lennon, and was extremely touched by the end, namely John's relationship with Sean. I'm not that into ex-Beatles solo albums but this one is the exception.

12. Johnny Greenwood - There Will Be Blood (soundtrack)
One of the best soundtracks ever, and my favorite movie of last year.

13. La Tana & Paco de Lucía - Tú, Ven a Mi
I love this record. La Tana is a terrific singer and Paco, well, he is Paco, a legend.

14. Radiohead - In Rainbows
One the best albums of 2008, and best of this band's best since Kid A.

15. Francois Rabbath - "Live" Around the World
Pure genius.

16. The Smiths - Louder Than Bombs
Again, I'm taken back to junior high with this one. Johnny Marr is one of the most underrated guitarists/song writers.

17. John Coltrane - Live at Birdland (1963)
In the October 2003 issue of Socialist Review, a tribute to John Coltrane movingly recounts the background that inspired Coltrane to write “Alabama”:

“Coltrane never described himself as a political activist–he was a musician first and foremost. He was also a deeply religious person. But it was his deep-seated humanity that drew him towards the civil rights movement. In 1964 Coltrane played eight benefit concerts in support of King. He also recorded a number of tracks inspired by the struggle–’Reverend King’, ‘Backs against the Wall’ and his album Cosmic Music was dedicated to King. Events in Birmingham would also move him to write ‘Alabama’.”

“On the Sunday morning of 15 September 1963 a dozen sticks of dynamite were planted by white racists in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. At 10.45am the bomb went off, killing four young black girls aged between 11 and 14.”

“Coltrane wrote the song ‘Alabama’ in response to the bombing. He patterned his saxophone playing on Martin Luther King’s funeral speech. Midway through the song, mirroring the point where King transforms his mourning into a statement of renewed determination for the struggle against racism, Elvin Jones’s drumming rises from a whisper to a pounding rage. He wanted this crescendo to signify the rising of the civil rights movement.”

With the election of Obama as president, I have hope that America will continue to push forward in eradicating its dark past and constructing a brighter future.

18. Dignan - The Guest, Newsongs
This a great band from my hometown of McAllen, Texas. The video below has rough audio but is a nice performance of their song "Tangled Woods."

19. Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs
I've been told many times that Benjamin Gibbard could be my brother, and I believe it.

20. Bjork
- Vespertine
I'll never get sick of this album. It reminds me of my gorgeous wife.

Well, there's my list. I wish I could tell you that if you played all these videos simultaneously they would create this grand masterpiece and connect with each other in some sort of extra-terrestrial manner, but they won't.

Needless to say, there's a lot of wonderful music out there. I encourage you to go buy it (whether you download or physically buy a CD or vinyl) and not illegally download it, bit-torrent it, only mooch off of youtube or myspace, etc, etc. If you want your favorite bands to continue to make your favorite music, then support them!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Behind the Scenes on Jay Leno

Hopefully, not too many of you missed out on Mute Math's Leno performance this last Thursday, January 15th due to your DVR/TiVo cutting out early since the Tonight Show went over several minutes its scheduled time, but if so, I'm sure you will be able to find a high quality video posting online (not including the garbage that is up on youtube, which quite honestly I'm beginning to loathe due to poor quality of video and the uninformed, misguided, and plain ignorant comments people leave on many videos, not just mine).

Speaking of misinformed comments, I think maybe some background MM info to this t.v. appearance is in order:

1) Mute Math is still a four piece! We just thought it'd be fun to invite some friends to help us debut "Spotlight." Why didn't Jay Leno announce "Mute Math and friends?" Don't know, but perhaps he should have.

2) Of these friends, Jeremy Larson played piano and rhodes, clapped, and sang. Jeremy has been instrumental in providing string arrangements for the new, upcoming album [please don't lose hope!]; he is an excellent pianist/singer, and therefore, a logical choice. Check out his music here.

3) Adam LaClave and Jonathan Allen have been friends of ours for many years, and play in a band called Club of the Sons. Adam is one of the most amazing singers I've worked with and probably the most creative person I've ever met, and Jonathan (who covered for me in Japan while my son was being born) is an incredible bass player. Both of them live and work in New Orleans.

4) Since "Spotlight" started in the studio with me on guitar and Greg on lap steel (or as it is sometimes referred to "biscuit board"), we decided to keep that original vibe live in this debut performance. More than likely, on tour I'll be playing bass for "Spotlight," which I also played for the recording. It was a lot of fun to play guitar on the show; guitar and drums were actually my first instruments at the age of 6. I didn't start playing bass until I was 17.

Big thanks to Jeremy, Adam, and Jonathan for helping us out, and to everybody that watched.

Happy New Year. Keep an open mind. Love One Another.

*all the above pictures were taken by my lovely wife.

Vintage cab used on MM debut (two 15" Jensen speakers).