Top 20 Summer CDs

Summertime is here! It’s hot, it’s sunny. Now if I could only be on vacation, that’d be great.

As was the case the last time, with winter, I found it harder than expected to figure out what summer actually “sounds” like. And to my surprise, it’s not all about reggay.

About that… funny story : at the beginning, I had two or three ideas at best for this list, and it was pretty much all about reggay, but now I can barely fit all of the albums I thought of in there. The list ended up being a lot more eclectic than expected.

I hope you’ll find some nice musical inspiration here while you’re probably also waiting, at work namely, looking out the window, irritated… waiting for the day when you can say so long y’all, I’m going for a sweet mohito on the terrace of a restaurant right in the middle of this beautiful sunny day.

 

Runners up : ZZ Top, Greatest Hits &  The Dead South, Good Company

These well-known bearded guys from Texas can certainly play some nice blues rock. But come on, forget about ZZ tops!

This folk bluegrass band from the Canadian Prairies, Mumford and Son’s Evil Twins as they call themselves, created the strangest addictive cool summer song.

20. Buena Vista Social Club, Buena Vista Social Club

Named after Havana’s lost mythical night club, this album is a summer classic. I drank so many coffees listening to this music on late Sunday mornings.

19. Ben Harper, Fight for your mind

Enjoy your Summer mornings with Ben Harper’s slide guitar and his classic 1995 album Fight for your mind.

18. Elevator to Hell, Part I to III

Moncton’s indie low-fi psychedelic rock band Elevator chose to illustrate its album with a wintery picture, but paradoxically, it is a great listen in the summer.

17. The XX, The XX

I didn’t know about this London indie electronic pop band until recently, yet I feel this music has been flowing around everywhere since forever (on TV? in the wind?).

16. Ani DiFranco, Dilate

Ani’s critically acclaimed seventh studio album remains a personal favorite, with her signature rapid fingerpicking, crazy guitar tunings, and overall intensity.

15. Lhasa De Sela, La Llorona

Lhasa’s deep voice warms up any atmosphere. Her first album La Llorona is all in Spanish, and it’s such a pleasure to listen to in the summertime.

14. Gotan Project, Lunatico

Argentinean tango blended with electronic music is a strange but cool mix, and Lunatico is certainly a nice atmospheric summer album.

13. Sublime, Sublime

Sublime’s classic 1996 eponymous release may be the sunniest of all punk-ska albums. There is some dub, reggay, and hip hop music in there as well. A joy to rediscover.

12. Mano Negra, Best of

Alternative rock salsa ska punk (really, how can I describe this band?) Paris-based La Mano Negra, “The Black Hand” in Spanish, produced this sunny, energetic and eclectic “best of” after they disbanded. I wish I could have seen them in concert.

11. Zebda, Essence ordinaire

Zebda’s third studio release is a festive yet socially-charged album. These guys (of French and Arab descent, among others), who all grew up together in Toulouse, tell authentic and compelling stories.

10.  Jean Leloup, L’amour est sans pitié

This album tore the place down in Québec in the early 1990s. A young Jean Leloup teamed up with La Sale Affaire and lived, played, and sung at a freaking crazy pace, about urban life, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. And summer in Montréal.

9. Janis Joplin, Greatest Hits

Many times, I heard someone say that this person or that person is “the Janis of the 80s”, “of the 90s”, “of the 2000s”, … but in the end, it never stands the test of time. Beautiful soulful Janis… you just rock. And as I listen to your music, I’ll always think of you standing on the stage of the Monterey Festival on that sunny day.

8. Jimmy Hendrix, Are You Experienced?

I don’t know if I’m experienced, but I’ve definitely listened to that album enough times that I know and appreciate the Jimmy Hendrix Experience. Even the colours chosen here for the cover amplify the warmth of his voice and music.

7. Tryo, Grain de sable

Tryo’s signature reggay and folk guitar rythms are a great fit for your summer afternoons. Like their peers Zebda, Tryo knows how to be socially-engaged and festive at the same time.

6. MC Solaar, Prose combat

If you don’t speak French, it’s a dang shame, because MC Solaar is a poet rapper who plays with words like no other. In any case, you’ll still move your head to these suave rythms.

5. Morcheeba, Big Calm

We loved that album right away when it was released. English trip hop electronic band Morcheeba, with its cool beats and jazzy musical exploration, is a nice album to chill out to. Pretty much like the cover implies.

4. Amadou et Mariam, Un dimanche à Bamako

A couple of musicians from Mali, who both became blind in their youth, conveyed their beautiful positive music and immense talent to the world with this classic album. This CD is loved by people of all ages (seriously, my parents have this album, I have it, and my kids love it).

3. Manu Chao, Clandestino

After La Mano Negra and other musical experiments, Manu Chao produced the stripped down Clandestino. With this, he intended to smoothly end his musical career. Ironically, this album, blending traditional latin music, reggay, rock, bresilian rythms, with a hint of chanson française, was a whopping success.

2. Bob Marley and the Wailers, Catch a Fire & Bob Marley, Uprising

It’s not cheating (too much) to have two Bob Marley albums on a Top Summer CDs list. I still listen to Catch a Fire often, but I had forgotten the sunny, upbeat and very catchy Uprising. I’m glad I rediscovered it.

1. Billy Stewart, Summertime

Janis’ version of Summertime is magical, but Billy Stewart’s is… just… mindblowing. Forget about Despacito (seriously, forget it)! THIS is the ultimate Summer song!

 

Summery fun fact : there are three (awesome) versions of Summertime in this list.

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Amazing Music Videos : Sabotage by Beastie Boys

Sabotage was the first single of the eclectic 1994 release Ill Communication. If I remember correctly, the hilarious video directed by Spike Jones is what propelled that strange hip hop/rock song to the top.

This parody of 1970s style cop shows was nominated for four MTV music video awards, but didn’t win any in the end. That doesn’t matter. It definitely deserves a spot on my amazing music videos list. Sure, the story makes no sense, but it serves its purpose well: providing the opportunity for 70s style dramatic cop & robber chasing, busting stuff open, jumping and sliding over car hoods… Utterly useless moves, but they are quite intense! Can you hear the squeeking tires from here? Are you nauseous from the over-the-shoulder camera action and all the zoom-in/zoom-out shots?

But the characters really are the icing on the cake. A nice little touch. Too bad that just when you’re done reading one’s pointlessly detailed info, he’s already exploded. And the secondary characters with their elaborate costumes and styles are super intriguing, but they get thrown over a bridge even faster.

Now, are our downtown streets well guarded by the intriguing Cochese and his boots, the chief and his axe, Bobby the rookie and his debatable choice of interrogation style, and the low-key Bunny?… Yes, I saw you Bunny, and I am grateful for your 2 second presence, since you seem to be the only not ultra violent fake cop around in this video.

If one of the Beastie Boys’ uncle had an old 1970s blue car that he didn’t mind seeing roughed up, then this video must have cost a ridiculously low amount of money, given that there are always garbage bins and cardboxes laying around. Well, you’d have to pay for the hotel room, a few props, and that guy’s salary for holding up trafic all day. And the person doing the editing of dozens of 3 second shots! But seriously, it always amazes me that so many memorable videos aren’t all about spending lots of money on cool visual effects. It’s all about the concept. The visual effects, or rather stunts, here, are old school to say the least, and it works perfectly well. That’s basically the concept.

So, thanks Beastie Boys, I laughed again, twenty years later, watching your video. And here’s a hint that your video marked a generation : for many years, people came to Halloween partys dressed up as your intricately defined characters. How’s that for an unofficial award!

Highlights : too many, so enjoy the whole thing. 😉

Four Outkast albums in one post

The title is misleading… I posted one music video for each of the four following albums.

(1) ATLiens from ATLiens. I had that song on an old mixtape and it brings back memories for me. So sue me! Why the Ancient Egypt concept? No freakin clue. (2) Rosa Parks from Aquemini. When is there EVER a harmonica break during a hip hop song? (3) Bombs over badgad from Skantonia. Very very good. Really love the beat. (4) Hey ya from Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Just cause it’s a memorable video.

Something other than “gangsta rap”… The Roots!

Sadly, because the dreadful insipid gangsta rap genre got way too much exposure on musical channels, many people assume that’s all there is to know about rap and hip hop…

Yet, there are many great hip hop bands that have incredible talent, lots of interesting things to say, and a unique way of performing.

The Roots is one of these bands that definitely have something special. This American hip hop group from Philadelphia has an groovy jazzy feel. The musical instruments are always up front: the keyboards, the drums, the base, the guitar… and the wonderful rapping sounds like an instrument as well. There’s a magical moment on the 1999 live “Come alive” CD when the rapping indicates how the musical phrase will be played subsequently by each instrument. A unique musical experience.

The Roots sing about human society and life’s struggles with intelligent and insightful lyrics, great rhythms and really catchy beats. As far as I can remember, every album met with critical acclaim. Their breakthrough album “Things fall apart” remains a classic. With such wonderful songs as Adrenaline, 100% dundee, You got me (with Erika Badu), Next Movement, Step into the Realm, … it’s a great way to get acquainted with their music.