Tag Archives: records

#FridayFinds – Pakistani-Brooklyn World Fusion and Facing the Music

(credits clockwise from top left: sandaraa.com, nickburkaotm, somervilleartscouncil.org, pondly.com
(credits clockwise from top left: sandaraa.com, nickburkaotm, somervilleartscouncil.org, pondly.com

This week started slowly, but then picked up quickly like that first ascent on a roller coaster, and then came down the other side zooming like an eagle possessed, stopping in mid-flight to rock a 25 minute guitar solo that melted so many faces off, before finally leaving us at the corner of Friday night and Saturday morning wondering “what the heck was that?” and amazed that we never once lost our lunch.

Here are a few of the things that made the adventure all the more excellent this week.

1. Tickled Pink on BlogBetterBoston’s {hub}Links

Once a week local Boston Blogger meetup BlogBetterBoston picks a theme and then selects five recent posts from its members to promote in a weekly roundup they call {hub}Links. This week the theme was spring colors, and my recent post on the colors, sights, and sounds of the season was among the posts selected. It’s a cool network to be a part of, full of wonderfully talented writers and doers in the community, and I’m thrilled to represent them this week. I sincerely recommend you check out the work of each featured writer as well. They’re lovely. And they sure know how to take a lot of pretty pictures. I wonder if they give lessons.

  • Around the World “L” shows us some colorful architecture you won’t want to miss.
  • Holly Dolly DIYed and dyed a dress and looks fabulous, of course.
  • Everyday Starlet gives advice on finding your best colors for fashion, hair and makeup…in video form.
  • Cuppajyo models a colorful spring look from local boutique Ku De Ta.

Want to be featured in the next edition? Sign up for the {hub}LINKS newsletter and submit your posts!

2. A Whole New World of Music with Sandaraa

When I’m not writing about music, talking about music, seeing shows, or working, I’m often volunteering at Vilna Shul, a historic synagogue in downtown Boston. It’s a beautiful building with lots of history, and for the last nearly 95 contiguous years there’s been an active Jewish presence there. The main sanctuary is particularly impressive with simple, stained glass windows and a high, vaulted ceiling. Suffice to say it’s got the right acoustics for a choir or chamber orchestra to perform, and I’ve had the chance to see a few groups of that sort perform there. Absolutely beautiful.

But I’d never seen anything like this.

Last night they hosted Sandaraa, a seven-piece outfit from Brooklyn that specializes in music from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the northwestern regions of India, and man did they hit it out of the park.

It was incredible. It’s fronted by vocalist and Pakistani native Zeb Bangash and backed by a band of multi-talented expert musicians from all over the country including clarinetist Michael Winograd and percussionist Richie Barshay. Each musician was a wonder unto themselves, and a few, including Michael, studied music just down the road at the New England Conservatory.

I loved how they used their western instruments to creat a haunting, eastern sound that you could have sworn was completely authentic if you didn’t see the bass, accordion, or clarinet.

And the band looked like they were having a blast up there. They fed off each other’s energy and rhythm beautifully. Even though this was only the second time they’d performed in months, they played as though they’d been doing it for years. Check them out if ever they’re in your neck of the woods (NYC friends, that means tomorrow night!).

3. Covering Up and Saving Face

Another wonderful thing about vinyl records is seeing cover art the way it was meant to be seen. CD and cassette tapes are lovely and portable, but you lose the scope and detail of the canvas that vinyl record covers provide. Some of these covers even have a bit of an “interactive” component as well that makes them particularly unique. Case in point is the cover sleeve for the Rolling Stone’s classic 1978 album Some Girls. The top layer features colorful and gaudy wigs superimposed on a bottom layer of faces that appear to belong to a host of your run-of-the-mill Hollywood starlets. Sliding the bottom layer out, however, reveals that the faces are actually just the members of the band done up in drag.

And speaking of faces, have you noticed how many album covers are just that? Happy faces, sad faces, red, white, and blue faces. Album covers depict the full spectrum of human emotion. This fact is not lost on the savvy social media-using, vinyl-loving masses, and they’ve brought a little extra pizazz to the fold with their hashtag #sleeveface.

The idea is simple: people take pictures of themselves holding these covers in front of them so that they become a piece of the scene. The results are often quite enjoyable and sometimes particularly inventive and impressive in their staging. I’m looking forward to making my own soon enough. Any good covers I should definitely use?

my first attempt at a #sleeveface. it's a work in progress.
my first attempt at #sleeveface. it’s a work in progress.

4. Pickin’ on the Front Porch

One of my favorite local music event of the year takes place tomorrow afternoon in Somerville: Porchfest.  Over a hundred bands from all over the Boston area will be performing on porches and in parks across the town beginning in the Union Square area tomorrow at noon and finishing up near Tufts by 6pm. Some of my favorites from last year like Black Marmot, Sheboom, and Somerville Symphony Orkestar are back again, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else is around.

So go. See. Enjoy and imbibe with all the wonderful, whimsical sights and sounds of this truly Somervillian spectacle. Though you might also want to bring a raincoat too… it’s supposed to be a bit wet. The event isn’t rain or shine though, so if it gets too wet things will take place on Sunday instead. Should be a lot of fun.

#FridayFinds: Music Memoirs, Dollar Bin Discoveries, Lip Syncing to Styx, Saxy Tunes, and Getting it Right on the First Take

photos courtesy (clockwise L to R): consequenceofsound.net, robsheffield.com, liveandbreathing.com, nbc.com
photos courtesy (clockwise L to R): consequenceofsound.net, robsheffield.com, liveandbreathing.com, nbc.com

Friday! Weekend! And the ides of May are nigh. My goodness. How time doth move.

It’s been a good week. Lots of action and activity in all the right areas, particularly in the area of personal/professional growth in music adventure and experience. Solid stuff all around.

And here for you now are five of the things that have added that extra dash of excellent these last few days.

1. Rob Sheffield’s Book – Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke

I picked up this fun little read over Christmas and heartily enjoyed it from the get go, but it wasn’t until just last night that I was able to find the time to finish it. Ah time… thou art a flighty and fickle mistress.

For those familiar with Sheffield’s other work, this book will offer a welcome and decidedly more hopeful conclusion to his previous stories of love and loss and the music that brought him to adulthood (Talking to Girls About Duran Duranand got him through the tragic, untimely end of his first marriage (Love Is a Mix Tape).

That said, the book isn’t off limits or full of anything that would make it difficult to understand for those not familiar with those stories, and Sheffield’s musings on music, karaoke, and life in general are honest and sincere and thus effortlessly universal.

For Sheffield, music is a labor of love in and of itself. He’s self-deprecating and humble about his own shortcomings as a performance artist (how many different ways can you tell people you’re not the most on-key singer? There’s at least 20, judging by the number of times it comes up in the book) and has an unabashed admiration for anyone who puts themselves in the limelight. The karaokes lifers, the career session musicians, the up-and-coming musical prodigies and wunderkinds– the David Bowies, Neil Diamonds, and everyone in between.

But it’s not all karaoke and musical jargon either. There’s really something in here for everyone. From the awkward 20something to the purportedly less awkward 30something, and from the new husband learning the ropes to the old professional romantic– and certainly the shower singer and the closet musical mastermind– everyone can find something to identify with in this collection of vignettes.

2. Discovering the Untold Pleasures of the Dollar Used Vinyl Bin

So I may have mentioned that I recently inherited a lovely little record player. It’s amazing, and I’m still very much in that “new father with newborn babe” stage wherein I take extensive precautions to ensure proper handling of turntable, records, and all related paraphernalia that the listening experience entails. With great power come great responsibility, after all.

But of course, with great responsibility comes great temptation to stock up on whatever things you don’t have but think you might need to have the best possible experience. Record brushes and cleaning fluid, plastic covers for each individual record sleeve, and a whole new arsenal of albums to play loud and proud.

Anyone who’s considered themselves an enthusiast in anything can tell you, having a hobby is expensive. Comic books, photography, stamps even– shout out to the quiet, the proud, the esteemed few stamp collectors still among us– every endeavor comes with quite a costly price tag if you really want to get serious.

Which is why the dollar bin at your friendly, neighborhood record store is all the more dangerous. One moment you’re leafing through the sea of titles thinking nothing of it, and the next you’re on your way out the door with half your day’s pay in the friendly, neighborhood record store’s till. But at least you got that Gordon Lightfoot album you never knew you always wanted, right?

Jokes aside, there’s generally a lot of decent items among the stacks. You just have to be willing to dig. In my first two visits, I spent just under $30 on seven albums that would have, at their original list price, probably gone for $100 all told (estimate adjusted for inflation, naturally).

P.S. If you’re looking for the perfect birthday gift for that special music blogger in your life, consider getting him (or her… what do I know… June 10, people) a handful of dollar bin delights. What better way to expand one’s musical horizons. Thoughtful and fun too.

3. Tonight Show Lip Sync Showdown between Jimmy Fallon and Emma Stone

Though I’m overall on the fence about The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, the man and his staff definitely have one thing down: a fantastic assortment of musical segments. They’ve done barbershop quartet renditions of popular hip hop tunes and spot-on impersonations of everyone from Neil Young to Bruce Springsteen to Tom Petty. And pretty much every Jimmy Fallon / Justin Timberlake collaboration you can find from the show is both uproariously enjoyable and musically inclined. Excellent stuff all around.

This isn’t the first lip sync battle that he’s done either. It started with an energetic face-off against Joseph Gordon Levitt while he was still at the 12:35 Late Night spot and then continued with a moderately silly one against Paul Rudd, but this one is the best thus far, particularly in the area of visual accuracy in lip sync lyric delivery.

Honestly it’s over at the end of the first round when Ms. Stone delivers a stupendously articulated rendition of Blues Traveler’s other hit from their 1994 breakout album Four– “Hook.” I think John Popper would approve.

4. Getting Saxy with the Saxyderms

Last weekend I went out with some friends to see the spring concert of a Tufts University-based saxophone ensemble called the Saxyderms (the Tufts mascot is an elephant, they play saxophones… Saxyderms…. get it? good). I’d seen them once before while on a mid-summer’s afternoon stroll through the Boston Common, and they were fantastic. Plus it turns out that my friend Jason is not only a Tufts grad but also a member of the band himself. Surprise, surprise. The guy’s got some chops.

With all the rock, roll, and other fun sounds out there on the airwaves today, it’s always nice to remember that music doesn’t need words, a raucous, romping guitar line, or even a cowbell beat to be enjoyable (though the cowbell doesn’t hurt). And these guys and gals prove it.

The program was a lovely mix of chorale pieces, jazz hits, and even one or two pop covers. All were beautifully arranged and delivered, but my hands down favorite of the afternoon was their rendition of the Dizzy Gillespie tune “A Night in Tunisia.”

And speaking of sexy saxes and pop music, check out this little mash up of great rock songs that feature that lovely sound. I’m hard pressed to think of any recent hits that really showcase that sound, but now I’m going to keep my ears dutifully peeled for it.

5. Bring the Band to Your Living Room: Live and Breathing Sessions

These days there are a lot of ways to find out about new music on the internet. And just about every day it feels like there’s a new YouTube channel devoted to enterprising young videographers looking to capture your favorite or soon-to-be-favorite bands in a new way with crazy camera angles, exotic locations, and all matter of color and light filters.

Enter Live and Breathing. They showcase well-known and up-and-coming bands, recorded with a few cameras, yes, but done all in one take, and without too much crazy camera mishegas or ridiculous, over-wrought lighting. They put the emphasis on capturing the essence of the performance, placing the premium on the musicians and their craft, not suped up production.

I learned about a lot of cool groups from their videos like The Wood Brothers and St. Paul and the Broken Bones (listen to those guys now). It’s also how I solidified my obsession with The Lone Bellow and Lake Street Dive. Check out their stuff today, and make yourself a little country/blues/folk-rock-americana in-house concert playlist this weekend. And enjoy!