A Gift of Music!

Hello children.  Oh how I’ve missed you.  Gather round, and let your nerdy Uncle Ian blow your eardrums.

Ummm, that was weird.  Sorry about that.  Anyway… it’s December!  Which means it’s cold, dark, and a little dreary.  But also the time for fires, cookies, and something else.  What could it be…?  Oh yeah!  GRADUATION.  For me, probably not for you.  Also it’s that time of year people say is about being selfless but in practice is really quite the opposite.  The time for ENDLESS loops of the same twelve songs for an entire month.  The time for “family togetherness,” which more often than not leads to drunkenness, bitterness, and anger…ness.  Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Anyway, this month started off with me thinking “I am all out of fresh music, what will I give the children?  THINK OF THE CHILDREEEENNNNN!!!!”

Or something like that.  But it’s turning out to be a virtual minefield of music that is fresh (at least to me) and exciting.

5.  Sam Tsui

Thanks to my friend Jenny for this.

At this point I haven’t seen/heard any of his original stuff, if it exists.  But the covers I’ve heard have been really good.  True, they’re mostly cheesy songs that are either from the Top 40 or Glee, but don’t hold that against him.  He has a great voice, and I think he’s gonna blow up soon (figuratively).  I’d probably put him higher, except that some of his mash-ups don’t really fit that well together.  Not sure if it’s the nature of the songs themselves, or him needing work blending them, or just my general dislike for mash-ups.  But some work really well.  So check him out.

4.  B.o.B.

OK, well if you haven’t heard of B.o.B. by now, you’re probably dead.  And therefore not reading this blog.

But seriously.  At first I thought there wasn’t that much to the guy.  I mean, Airplanes with Haley Williams was good.  And Magic with Rivers Cuomo is pretty much amazing.  But I was willing to write him off as an artist on the grounds that all he does is collaborate.  Which is almost true.  Out of twelve songs on his album, a whopping THREE are just him.

Then I started really paying attention to his lyrics.  I won’t go so far as to say they’re deep.  But I will say that they’re high-quality.  I mean, he’s not your average “let’s go smack some hos and get high” rapper.  He is, for lack of a better word, a poet.  And I would say that it takes something special to collaborate with so many different personalities and not get overshadowed by them.

3.  Deadmau5

I actually heard Deadmau5 for the first time several years ago.  But for some reason, he didn’t make much of an impression on me.  Then somehow I stumbled on him again while surfing YouTube, and my head exploded from the awesome.  Now, I’ll be the first to say that it’s not for everyone.  My love of techno/electronica/house/trance (can someone please explain to me how those are different???) goes back to junior high, so this is like ambrosia for my soul.  But maybe thumping beats, high-energy riffs, and general seizure/rave-inducing music aren’t your thing.  And that’s your prerogative.  Imma do me, you do you.

2.  Pomplamoose

Thanks to my friend Jordan for this rec.

Until today, I was actually going to put them as number one.  It’s a really hard choice to make.  But I made it nonetheless.

So Pomplamoose is a duo, with Nataly on vocals (and the occasional bass, xylophone, tamborine, or other instrument that takes no skill), and Jack on EVERY INSTRUMENT EVER.  And occasionally vocals.  They’ve done some pretty amazing covers of old-school favorites of mine like September by Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Mr. Sandman by the Chordettes.  Also a really great rendition of Beat It by the one and only MJ.  And – my personal faves – Telephone by Lady Gaga and Single Ladies by Beyonce.  They’re fantastic.

But wait – there’s more!  They also do originals!  This is my favorite by far.

So that’s them.  I also love the slice of life bits after each song (although I skip them now that I’ve seen them).  So check them out.

1.  Janelle Monae

One day, not too long ago, I was flipping through channels with my family (I think?), and came across this skinny black chick in a tuxedo singing and dancing all crazy.  I was impressed – or at least intrigued – but totally didn’t catch her name.  And, in the hustle and bustle of the season, totally forgot about it.

Then, this week, I was listening to The A.V. Club’s year in review for music.  And she was in the top five.  They called her the Outkast of 2010, which I see both as high praise (despite them barely being more than a one-hit wonder), and totally accurate.  I looked her up on YouTube, and it all came crashing back to me!  And I instantly fell in love.  From her comically large, anime-esque pompadour to her smooth-dancing spats.  I love the two singles she has up on her page.  I love her EP and her full album, which all tell the story of Cindi Mayweather – an android in the futuristic city of Metropolis), and I love that she wants to make a music video for every song on her album, and a movie, and a graphic novel.  She is obviously really intelligent, well-read, and generally fantastic.  She also has this great “I am who I am” attitude, but not in a “back up off my $#!7, B!7c#” kind of way.  It’s refreshing.  She transcends so many genres, and to me exemplifies “fresh” music.

So enjoy.  And Merry Happy.

These aren’t the spats I meant…

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