Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Caribou - The Pixies

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: Caribou, by The Pixies

Alright, it's been a while, but I've been listening to the pixies a lot recently, so here goes:

The Pixies:

Have you heard of the pixies? Once my friend LB and I went to their concert in Montreal in 2005. It was at the Uniprix tennis courts, you know, in Jarry park.

Anyway, they had a dual billing with Weezer, and came on first. They blew me away, and was probably the best assigned-seating concert I've been to. I had listened to them somewhat at that point but mostly through osmosis - that I remember the concert so well today I think is to their credit.

Kim the bassist has such a cool voice and is a badass proto-90s-style bass guitar player. Their guitarist Joey plays slow, textural, and sometimes dissonant riffs, yet didn't feel the need to call himself "the edge": fascinating. Their drummer David is solid - this isn't jazz so he's not pulling 3 minute drum solos, but you know what I mean. Black Francis is the pseudonym the singer/rhythm guitarist charles goes by. I love his songwriting. Sometimes he screams, but you can't tell if he's joking or serious. His lyrics are insane, and once he told jian gomeshi to frig off in not so many words before the latter's recent fall from grace.

Seriously, he does an alien voice to mock gomeshi's overwrought question.

When you listen to this track, think how different this sounds from music released in 1987. That was the time of hair metal. These guys must have been pretty stylistically unique when they released the album Come On Pilgrim.

I'm sharing a live version, it's them in their prime

This is a hard-driving pixies rock song in 6/8 timing. charles' rhythm guitar plays these triplets that keep the time, you'll hear it in the intro. Joey's opening guitar riffs are really typical of their style, as is Kim's single-note base playing - listen to how she plays entire chords one one note, 1 beat for each of the 6 beats per measure. This rocks. Then charles starts screaming "REPENT!", it's a great time. Hope you enjoy!

Listen on, especially the last track "Hey" which is a great song that's not in waltz form by this band.

The song:

Until next time, signing off, saying bye, check you later,

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Rills of the Nile - Beat Cops

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: Rills of the Nile, by Beat Cops

We're back! Today, rock and roll. This album was released YESTERDAY (16/06/2015) so we are like riding the crest of the current-music wave here.

Beat Cops:

Beat Cops are these four guys:

I know Pat, bottom-left, of Trigger Effect fame, but not the other three fine musicians. What can I say, I'm slightly - 1/4 - alternative, but not 4/4.

The point is, these guys all have fine rock/punk/metal/other? pedigrees, and can play the heck out of their instruments. Their songs are aslo catchy, rockin', melodic and fun to listen to. God bless 'em!

In fact, I saw them at their album release last night at a fine venue - Turbo Haus - run by guitarist Pat and some other members of the montreal music/bar/restaurant scene. The show was sweet, and their performance of this tune really caught me.

On to today's song.

The song:

The singer introduced this song last night as the story of someone injuring themselves in the arctic, and falling into their ultimate sleep dreaming of a warm slumber on the banks of the river Nile.

The song begins with only the singer and his guitar, which makes a sweet transition when the electric guitar/drums/bass comes in at 1:20. Something about the muscular tone of the drums and electric guitar gives it a rockin' zeppelin sort of feel. As the song progresses, you start hearing some sweet double-guitar harmonies, and vocal harmonies.

The singer has a great range, and the song is chorded by a lot of suspended seventh chords which gives it a sort of breeze - dreamy - feel.

I think this is the first straight rock selection for RWW! press "play" on the embedded link below and enjoy. You can also check out the rest of the album and/or purchase it through the bandcamp landing page as well.

Until next time, signing off, saying bye, check you later,

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Blacker the Berry - Kendrick Lamar

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: The Blacker the Berry, by Kendrick Lamar

Boy has it been a while! Sometimes you just gotta give the people what they want, so rusty's waltz wednesday is back, again.

Kendrick Lamar:

I remember when I was 18 or so and getting heavier in to hip hop - feeling unimpressed by contemporary raps that weren't G-funk - thinking "eventually some rapper will come along, around my age, who's been rapping his whole life who will just blow everyone away". I think kendrick lamar is that guy. Just listen to a variety of his songs and you'll hear the depth of his style. Unlike so many charlatans who have turned their mediocre rap skills into fame, this guy's verses are long, lyrics complex, and vocal sound varied in both timbre (gritty to nasal), volume, and pitch.

His last album was called Good Kid Madd city, and is a great listen, especially if you listen to it as a complete work as he weaves a narrative of his 16 year old self.

His most recent album came out a few months ago, titled To Pimp a Butterfly. This is a more serious work, reflective of both a more serious time (Black lives matter, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner), and an older maturing Kendrick. On to the song.

Aside from the "conscious"-heavy subject matter, one of the most striking things about this album is the musical freedom it employs, reminiscent of works by artists of an older generation like blackalicious, early Outkast, or Black Starr. It has moments of funk, soul, and jazz blended seemlesly together with Kendricks raps.

The song:

For the record, thid is the third hip-hop song on waltzwednesday, but comes with a caveat: The song doesn't actually hit a 3/4-multiple time signature until the end. No matter though since anyone listening to this track will undoubtedly hear the part, and since virgin radio would never air this song (prove me wrong, richard branson, whoever you are), the end won't be lopped off.

I hear four conflicting themes: the burden of racial prejudice, pride in his heritage despite the former, black-on-black violence that is a reality where he grew up (by "reality" I mean that it's impossible for me to fathom having any of my friends killed in gang violence), and police violence against black people.

Now, much has been written about this song, summarized here. Briefly, and for the sake of describing the lead-up to the 6/8 (waltz * 2) portion of this song: he foreshadows "I'm the biggest hypocrite in 2015" at the beginning of every verse, and climaxes in the bottom half of the last verse, after describing gang warfare in compton, only to reveal his hypocrisy:

So don't matter how much I say I like to preach with the Panthers Or tell Georgia State "Marcus Garvey got all the answers" Or try to celebrate February like it's my B-Day Or eat watermelon, chicken, and Kool-Aid on weekdays Or jump high enough to get Michael Jordan endorsements Or watch BET cause urban support is important So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street? When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me? Hypocrite!
Whereupon the rhythm completely changes from a bass-heavy drum-machine heavy minor key to a smooth jazz in 6/8 led by overlapping sample vocals and a silky (tenor?) saxophone and syncopated drumming. It's a powerful switch, as if after explaining his hypocrisy there was some cathartic release. Listen to the whole song for the full effect of the waltz*2 portion which begins at 4:33.

It's my experience that so many people who are hip-hop heads listen almost exclusively to hip-hop, so it strikes me that for some people it's one of the rare occasions they might listen to something in a non 4/4 beat, even though kendrick doesn't rap over it, which I hope he eventually does.

Until next time, god bless.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Hero - Frank Ocean + Mick Jones + Paul Simonon + Diplo

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: Hero, by Frank Ocean, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Diplo

I had a few good ideas lined up for today's post, but then I stumbled upon Frank Ocean's tumbler, got myself into a click hole, and found this song.

Frank Ocean + Mick Jones + Paul Simonon + Diplo:

I won't make this too extensive. Frank Ocean is a great modern RnB singer. His vocals don't have the over-the-top quality like - say - the recently deceased and previously profiled Percy Sledge, and are usually pretty understated. His debut album was called Channel Orange and was very good; his fans have been waiting on 3 years now for a new album, which I hear is being released in July.

Mick Jones are from the legendary band The Clash, just a couple rockin' guys whos songs are more or less ubiquetous today.

Diplo is a producer whom I best know from his work as Major Lazer, which is a pretty fun project.

Finally, shoe brand Converse appears to have put this project together. I like that a lot Converse, but your shoes still aren't my style...God bless.

The song:

This is the second song that I would qualify as coming (in part, at least) from the hip-hop sphere, the first being Alicia Keys' "Fallin'" .

The song starts off with a 60s sound - reverb heavy and base driven sets of two-triplets, laying down the 6/8 rhythm (I call that 2xWaltz). But by 1:08 we get a change in dynamics: the tone of the guitar changes to much more Punky (Clash members sgning in?), and we get an electronic-sounding rapid base-drum up-front - I assume that's Diplo talking. Then at 1:30 the dynamics break again, soften, as a children's choir chimes in. By 1:55 we return to the original sound, and then seconds later, back again to punk-electro, and then by 2:20 back to the original 60s vibe for the fadeout.

This is a great example of a dynamic take on the 3/4-family of rhythm. It's at times tender, sometimes punk, sometimes fast-paced, and it's all good. Thanks converse!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

She's gone (for Anna) - Darrin Hacquard

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: She's gone (for Anna), by Darrin Hacquard

We're back! Let's get serious:

Today I'm going to share a song off my favorite album of 2015, Darren Hacquard's Signs and Wonders. I know that last week I hinted that I was going to mostly highlight songs from our pop culture, but in a sense this album is like...my pop culture right now, and I'd like to share it with you.

Darrin Hacquard:

I met Darrin last August at a weeklong old-time music party in west virginia. He seemed like a colourful character, so I later contributed to his crowd-funded album, not really knowing what to expect.

When I got the digital download for Signs and Wonders I was floored. I would call it an alt-country album, and it retains so much of what's great about country music - especially storytelling - and eschews a lot of that new nashville nonsense like the cheesy harmonies and instrumentation. The sound on this album ranges from sweet to psychedelic, always with a good helping of grit, and the texture of something that - wisely - was not overproduced.

In the interest of full disclosure, the artist isn't aware of my writing this, and I bought the album myself. That said, I would be thrilled if some more people listened to (and bought) Signs and Wonders, because I do think it's great, original, music.

The song:

There are actually three waltzes on this album. I've chosen the first, which starts off the album.

I like the way this one starts out - Darrin's voice, alone, followed by the rhythm section's bass and drums kicking in. The lyrical storytelling here is great: the song is a story about a rough and tumble character "born on the thirteenth of june - it was a friday night" who had "run-ins with the law - a real backseat driver". There's a slow-motion banjo solo, an electric guitar solo, and some accordeon (I think?) and synth/or organ providing backing.

Have a listen yourself. You can check out the other songs by pressing the universal symbol for "computer: play next track": >>>

That's all for this week - tune in next time, I have lots of good songs in store!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Fallin - Alicia Keys + early mission statement

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: Fallin', by Alicia Keys

I took a pedagogical week off waltz wednesday, and feel more refreshed than ever.

Now, I think most readers would agree that this isn't just a space for me to nerd out on old-time waltzes. Yes, I have posted a few, but I've purposely tried to profile songs that are within our collective pop culture consciousness.

I didn't really have a mission statement when I started posting songs for waltz wednesday, but as I keep wracking my brain and music library for waltz-form songs, I think I've developed my idea. Maybe one week I'll write a formal mission statement, but until then, know that I'm interested in showing the versatility of the waltz as a song form, with a special emphasis on popular music.

Also know that all the songs here are chosen organically - I've made it a habit of whenever I listen to music on a portable device, home computer, TV, or radio, or even when I listen to music without providing consent - restaurants, cafés, bars, or kids who inexplicably use their phones as boomboxes instead of using earphones - to immediately identify whether it's in waltz form, and note it down if it's interesting to me. I do not go through online lists of waltzes, and I would ask anyone recommending a waltz to use the same process!

Alright without further ado, waltz wednesday's song:

Alicia Keys:

This song was Alicia Keys' break-out hit: I remember pretending to not like it in high school, but really, who was I kidding. She wrote and produced it, putting her skills on display as a fine musical artist. I never knew it, but it makes sense that she graduated valedictorian at New York city's Professional Performing Arts School; it even looks like she skipped a grade or two since she graduated at age 16.

The song:

IDK if you guys remember, but this song was the shit. It was released in April of 2001, and stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for 34 weeks, peaking at #1. Somehow it placed second behind Lifehouse's "Hanging by a Moment" for the year-end top-100 chart. I mean I'm trying to make this blog a safe space for all music tastes, but is "Hanging by a Moment" ever bad. In any case, it's trivial, since everbody remembers Fallin', and nobody remembers that other song.

The song alternates between two chords - if it's good enough for Miles Davis, it's good enough for Alicia Keys. There are some nice vocals to listen to, like her voice modulation at about a minute in, or the way she plays with rhythm at the end of the second verse. As the song progresses, more and more layers of sound are added on - harmonies, Alicia's vocal improvisations on the melody, strings, more cymbals on the drums, etc.

This is the first song in the hip-hop sphere of things. Don't think I haven't been trying to find more, but I just can't. Frankly, the entire genre's unwavering loyalty to the 4/4-multiple time is disappointing, and smacks of a lack of creativity or willingness to take risks.

On that note, I'm going to embed the original song first, followed by a remix that they completely changed to 4/4. It's a good study in what a waltz is/isn't, if it - understandably - isn't entirely clear.
The genuine article:

And now in 4/4 because, for some reason, Busta Rhymes couldn't figure out how to rap in a 3-multiple time signature..? Weak.

...and for good measure, Sarah's favorite Alicia Keys' video, featuring the rapper Mos Def:

...and my all-time favorite Alicia Keys song, featuring Lucas from one-tree-hill, and an actress from the Wire? Seriously this is one of my favorite songs of all time:

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Cher Bassette - Balfa Brothers

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: Cher Bassette, by the Balfa Brothers

Wellsir, I didn't waltzwendesday last week, but fear not, I am returned.

In this early stage, I feel as if this blog and its loyal readership is a little fragile, like Rome in the whhhhhhhisper speech by Marcus Aurelius in the Gladiator (Richard Harris co-starring Rusty Crowe's best role ever).

But fear not, for if I ever abandon this project - due to lack of interest, or lack of waltzes - I will surely let you know.
On to today's waltz:

Balfa Brothers:

The Balfa Brothers were a traditional Cajun band headed by Dewey Balfa playing fiddle and singing, along with his brothers Will, Rodney, and Harry on fiddles, guitars, and triangle and Hadley Fonetnot on accordion. They brought their "chanky-chank" to the attention of the greater American - and world - public during the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, best described here:

It's a rare thing to be able to point to one event as changing the course of a culture's history, but in the case of Cajun culture, Dewey Balfa's participation in the 1964 Newport Folk Festival was pivotal. That year, in the midst of a revival of American public interest in folk and regional culture, folklorist and traditional music promoter Ralph Rinzler (who later went on to found the Smithsonian Folklife Festival) invited a Cajun group to perform at the prestigious Newport Folk Festival. Dewey actually went to the Rhode Island festival as a guitarist—a last minute replacement in an ensemble that included the great Cajun accordionists Gladius Thibodeaux and Louis "Venesse" Lejeune. To their amazement, rather than laughing at them, the largely urban audience of 17, 000 went wild. As Dewey recalled many years later:
"I had played in house dances, family gatherings, maybe a dance hall where you might have seen as many as 200 people at once. In fact, I doubt I had ever seen 200 people at once. And in Newport, there were 17,000. Seventeen thousand people who wouldn't let us get off stage."

The song:

Alright well Mardi Gras passed us by last month, and with it the beginning of Tim Horton's the Roll Up the Rim to Win season (this post is sponsored by Tim Horton's family restaurants), and I didn't get to post any cajun tunes. Which reminds me, my friend Collin has a project making beautiful old-timey Mardi Gras costumes. I think they'll be an esthetic reminder - if less creepy - of HBO's recent miniseries True Detective.

The cajun triangle lays down the 1-2-3 in this song clear as day (reminder: what's a waltz). Dewey Balfa comes into the song in his yell-singing voice, all full of remorse for his lost Bassette. The melody sections are played by two fiddles, which is typical for cajun tunes. There might be an accordion in there, but I can't hear it well if so.

Before listening to Dewey Balfa sing, I'd never heard Cajun French. I suppose I didn't know what to expect, but was surprised to hear similarity to french spoken over here in Quebec. I'll put the lyrics below the song for your consideration. Enjoy!


Chère Bassette, ayoù toi t'es?
Moi j'peux pu de te r' trouver
Quoi moi j'fais, tu t'en r' viens pas à la maison, bébé

Chère Bassette, quoi c'est t'as fait?
T'as cassé, ouais, not' ménage
Pour t'en aller si loin d'moi avec ein autre

Tu connais moi j'ai du r'gret
J'ai du r'gret pour tout ça moi j't'ai fait
Pardonne-moi, viens-t'en donc à la maison, chère

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

REM - Everybody Hurts

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: Everybody Hurts, by REM

Wellsir, it's the week after valentine's day. I was having a movie night with myself last friday when I decided to watch The Dictator. It was pretty hilarious, especially the bit in the helicopter when they're yelling at each other in arabic (that's actually hebrew), I literally died from laughter, and am writing from beyond the grave.

The point is that "Everybody Hurts" - in Arabic - was on the soundtrack, and as soon as it started I jotted this song down on my notepad.


REM is one of those bands that I know I'll like when I get around to listening to them, but just haven't yet. They're credited with pioneering alt-rock, and its members were singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and drummer Bill Berry. They've sold upwards of 85 million records worldwide, which is just staggering.

I hope to find another waltz by them when I start listening to their albums.

The song:

I'm going to talk about REM's own version of this song, even though I really like the arabic version.

Like last week's selection, this is another song that I had - perhaps again like you, dear reader? - only ever heard on TV, movies(, starbucks?). The song was first released in 1993, and made it pretty high on the charts, though not to number one.

I'm pretty sure the timing is in 6/8 here: each beat is tapped on the snare drum, and the fourth (of six!) beat always has a louder high-pitched "tock" sound.

The melody is really nice, Stipe's voice is set in a pretty high register, and he sings gently as the verse alternates between two chords (D and G). My favorite part of this song is when the piano steps down to the E-minor of the chorus and Stipes sings "don't let yourself go" for the first time. He kicks up the power behind his voice, and adds a waver to it that's more subtle than an overwrought vibrato.

As the song progresses, I confirmed that it was the first time I'd listened to this song, because I had no idea there was a bridge (2:23). Here, I find that his singing borrows from soul music, as he modulates his voice - like when he sings "don't throw your haa-ayyaa-aaaa-aand" (where he modulates on "hand").

The song ends with increased layering, and a pretty nice string arrangement - which Wikipedia tells me was written by Led Zepplin's John Paul Jones. All in all, it's a nice way to finish a pretty darn good song.

Don't forget to check out the Arabic version, and share this blog with your friends. If you're going to email it to anyone, I'd ask of you to please only type in allcaps with no punctuation, e.g. "CHECK OUT THIS BLOG ITS ABOUT WALTZES AN OFT NEGLECTED MUSICAL FORM TODAY LOVE GRANDAD"

I Aladeen this song...

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Percy Sledge - When a Man Loves a Woman

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: When a Man Loves a Woman, by Percy Sledge

Wellsir, it's valentine's week here at Rusty's waltz Wednesday, and as it happens, in the world at large. So I could not resist the urge to feature this smoocher: When a Man Loves a Woman (WAMLAW), by Percy Sledge.

Percy Sledge:

Mr. Sledge is from Alabama, and began playing gigs while working as a hospital orderly. His musical roots are in southern gospel, and when WAMLAW was released in 1966, he became the first southern soul artist to top the charts: 2 weeks at the top, in May 1966.

Imagine if it were today, people: Mix 96 Virgin Radio playing this song 12 times a day; second cup embroiled in an ill-fated bidding-war with starbucks for the musical rights; background music for a Fido Mobile ad; and young people gyrating on the dance floor to the slick 1-2-3-1-2-3 set out by the hi-hat.

The song:

I'm deliberately choosing to share the live version of WAMLAW, found on Mr. Sledge's VEVO channel, because he sings with great feeling and effort, it sort of revived my appreciation for the song.

For you see, I - like you, dear reader - had become sort of numb to this song. And that is to the singer/songwriter's own credit, a reflection of how huge this song is: I - like you - have likely heard this song upwards of fifty times without ever having pressed a "Play" button.

This was the first song he recorded for his first ever record contract, in 1966. This recording is from 1966 or 1967, because Otis redding introduces the song, and poor Otis died in late 1967.

He sings this song in such a high register without breaking or going falsetto, it's stupefying. Fellas, try it at home tonight in the shower, you will sound like an idiot, and your partner might break up with you.

He also brings some great motifs from the souther gospel tradition, like the "hah!" (0:42), and ending some words with "wronggg...AH!" (3:42). On that note, this one goes out to my special lady Sarah, whom I encourage to visit each page multiple times to increase my page count.........................

Alright, enough text, enjoy! Happy love day babies....AH!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Wilco - Side with the Seeds

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: Side with the seeds, by Wilco


side with the seeds comes off of one of my favorite Wilco albums. Briefly the band is from Chicago, headed by jeff tweedy. To my ear their songs are roots/Americana, but they do wonderful things with the sound space to create weird, exciting, eery, or all of the above sounds to - in their words - not have every track sound like a folk song.

A great addition to the band when they recorded sky blue sky was jazz guitarist Nels Cline. I didn't know much about Nels, but his playing on this album is mind blowing if only for the breadth of styles that he can play. I'm not one to kvell over an electric guitarist, but Cline plays a style that's at once messy, but so refined.

I saw them play in Montreal when they were touring this album; it was probably the best concert I'd ever been to.

The song:

This song might be in 6/8, but either way - like I said in my selection criteria post: if I can count some threes in there, it's a waltz goddamnit.

I haven't given the words a close listen and probably won't. All's I care about is that they don't get in the way of me enjoying the song as a whole. Typically, Tweedy's voice has this raspy-yet-vulnerable tone that immediately hooked me on to wilco some years ago.

The melody rounds out into a bridge part at the two minute mark, where Nels takes the first of his two solos, but shows restraint. We then get another verse, and then it's Nels' turn again, and he brings out the slaymaker.

This recording is live, but sounds as good or better than the studio version. I don't want to turn this into a morality play, but <preaching> there's a lot to be said for the organic process of making music that's lost when much of the performance comes from canned sounds </preaching>. ENJOY!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What's a waltz anyways?

Well friends, I thought I should clarify my waltz selection criteria.

It's informal, and here it goes. I'm going to try to keep it simple, and keep it moving.

1. Find the beat.
2. Find the beginning of a measure - its usually right on a beat, and at the beginning of a melody part. It     usually stands out. I try not to over think it.
3. Start counting 1-2-3-1-2-3 in time with the beat.
4. Does the counting match the song? That is, does each "1" start on the beginning of a "phrase"?
5. If the answer to 4 is "yes", wellsir, according to Rusty's waltz Wednesday criteria you've got yourself a waltz.

Let's try with an old post: Beach House's On the Sea

To my ear, I the first phrase begins as the piano comes in around the 12 second mark.

The piano does a nice job of sounding out the "1-2-3". The melody phrase consists of three LOUD-soft note combinations.

Once you start counting your "1-2-3"s, you'll find that the "2" always lands on the middle - which is usually the highest accented note in each 1-2-3 phrase.

Got any questions or comments? I'm all eyes, so comment below! Bye now.