Tuesday, 20 December 2011

10 Great Songs. Period.

Just under a week now until Christmas day is upon us! I'm a generous guy, I like to see people close to me happy and fulfilled in every way imaginable. So I thought you all deserved your Christmas gift early. No inherent theme this week, just 10 songs that everyone needs to hear. Maybe you have heard them, maybe you haven't. If you have enjoy them again and think back to when you first discovered them...if you haven't get on acquiring them now!! 10 Great Songs! From me to you!

1. "Streetcar" - Funeral For A Friend

Funeral For A Friend are a hardcore group from the UK. I love the way this song starts out...a simple telephone call, she picks up the phone and all hell is unleashed. It never stops through the entire song either. The album this song is off of, Hours,  is worth picking up too if this tickles your fancy. It sure tickled mine!

2. "No Children" - The Mountain Goats

Here's a delicious and nasty song for those waking up on the shores of a terrible relationship and feeling relieved. "No Children" could have been included on a few future lists: "Songs without drums" and "Songs without choruses", but it's too good to hold on to.

3. "Mixtape" - Butch Walker

Butch Walker has enjoyed a long tour of duty in the music industry. Beginning back in the late 90's as the singer of the short-lived Marvelous 3, he'd go on to have underground success and following as a solo artist. He's even been known to write songs for other popular artists, one that comes to mind: Weezer. "Mixtape" is a great track off his equally great album Letters.

4. "Magic" - Ladyhawke

Ladyhawke is the stage name of New Zealander Pip Brown. She may have gotten a slow start to her musical career but she came in like a lion with her self-titled 2008 debut.  "Magic" is a great sampling of her talents, a mix of rock, pop and synth styles create a love song of dream-like proportions.

5. "From Now On" - Dikta

One thing I took away from my Iceland trip earlier this year was some great music by the locals. Dikta was a stand out that I heard on the plane's in-flight radio. "From Now On" has a relaxed and chill vibe, reminiscent of Damien Rice or James Blunt, but with a little more edge when it comes to lyrics.

6. "Freefallin'" - Atmosphere

I'm going to do a list about great rap songs and you can bet your sweet asses that Atmosphere will be included. "Freefallin'" is a great song about being thankful for what you have even though it's not what your dreams are made of. Singer Slug has a natural talent for word crafting. Often times it's just as good as master an instrument.

7. "Paris Is On" - Paul Brill

Here's another haunting simple song. Paul is almost effortless in his beautiful delivery of this  hypnotic track. The video is effin' sweet too, I couldn't squeeze it on to my Great Video list unfortunately...hey that gives me an idea!!

8. "Cut" - The Cure

I remember clear purchasing the Cure's album "Wish". I actually had to order it specifically from another record shop across town, because the one in my neighborhood didn't have it. I went through alot of trouble to get this album, based on a recommendation by a music fan whose opinion I trust, and I don't regret it. This track jumped out at me immediately upon first listening and to this day it remains my favourite Cure track. Get It!!

9. "The Rat" - The Walkmen

I ignored this song and this band for a long time, for really no reason but that I didn't like being told what to like. "You'll love it!!!" people would say, so I ignored it. One day it stumbled upon it by chance and couldn't believe i've been without it for as long as I was. Don't make the same mistake I did. Check this track out! You'll love it!

10. "Stop Whispering" - Radiohead

I kind of lost track of Radiohead, nothing against them. I'm sure they're still making excellent music. Every so often I hear a track off one of their newer albums and it's admittedly good. Just after OK Computer I found it difficult to keep up with their releases, I dunno. Thankfully there is plenty of ear candy on their earlier albums, like this gem from Pablo Honey.

Thanks again to all readers! The request lines are open so bring them in!
I May not post much during the holidays but do have my next list in mind for the end of the year! Be safe and keep those ears open!! Cheers


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Top 25 Best Christmas Songs Ever

Aww yeah. Had to happen. There are typically 2 types of people when it comes to christmas music. Those who admit they love it and those who are friggin' lying and say they don't..yet secretly they do. I am of the first camp and enjoy the music that is inspired by all the energy that amasses around the final moments of the year. Whatever Christmas means to you, music can make it a little more enjoyable. So if you're wondering what songs to include on a Xmas party playlist...or just need some comfort for your lonely Christmas soul, I present to you: The Top 25 BEST Christmas Songs Ever!

25. "All I Want For Christmas Is You" - Mariah Carey

This first entry might surprise some of you, but whats greater than a super-sexy diva singing about only wanting to be with you for Christmas. It gets off to a soft start, but give it a few moments and it kicks into an uplifting tune that is guaranteed to make your girl gyrate and swoon. Always been a shadowed Mariah supporter...craziness and all.

24.  "Driving Home For Christmas" - Chris Rea

British born Chris Rea is kind of like England's Johnny Cash. This one strikes a chord with me, because i'm always on the road around Christmas time. Driving back to my hometown from wherever in this country i'm living in at the time. Music definitely makes that trek easier...always has

23. "We Three Kings" - Wintersleep

I've not only included original Xmas songs, but even some traditional carols that have been performed by contemporary artists. Halifax's Wintersleep unleashed a haunting version of "We Three Kings". While i've heard the song played all year round, it's typically reserved for the holiday season with it's association with the birth of Christ.

22. "Step Into Christmas" - Elton John

A classic from 1973 by the legendary song crafting duo Elton John and Bernie Taupin. It was released as a stand alone, meaning it didn't fit on any of Elton's records nor did he release an album of all Christmas music at the time. The recording procedure was meant to mimic Phil Spector's "wall of sound" technique. More on Spector later...

21. "Please Come Home For Christmas" - Bon Jovi

I've always thought this song was called "Bells Will Be Ringing". It was originally written in the 60s and has since been covered multiple times...most notably by The Eagles and Bon Jovi. I feel Bon Jovi's is the best treatment and obviously the most popular. Again about that feeling that it's just not the same without having that someone with you on Christmas...as we all know it's usually a whirlwind and a nightmare trying to untangle everyone's plans...but still one can wish.

20. "Seasons Greetings Felony" - Revenge Of The Egg People

Not every Christmas song is sappy and joyful. Revenge Of The Egg People tell a humourous tale of mistaking Santa Claus for a prowler and opening fire when he makes a move for his bag. It wasn't easy finding this track...i had to make a video for it myself on Youtube. Y'all better respect what I do for you guys around the holidays.

19.  "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy" - Bing Crosby & David Bowie

One of the most iconic musical Christmas images is a young David Bowie visiting Bing Crosby's "home" on Bing's final Christmas special in 1977. "Little Drummer Boy" might be my favourite Christmas carol, but this version is special not only because of the star power, but the delightful harmonization of the "Peace on Earth" lyrics against the traditional ones. It's a pretty thing isn't it?

18. "Merry Christmas Baby" - Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band

It just isn't Christmas without the Boss. Featured on the 1987 album A Very Special Christmas which featured many various artists doing their holiday tunes and donating the profits to The Special Olympics. This song is actually a cover of an old R & B favourite, but Bruce's version has a nice energy and that infectious saxophone hook. Gets ME hooked!

17. "Early Christmas Morning" - Cyndi Lauper

Here's a fun little ditty from the fabulous Cyndi Lauper. Leave it to her to capture the sheer anticipation and frenzied joy we all remember from our youth the night before Christmas. Man, I remember having near anxiety attacks. This was only released in Japan I think, which is why some of the backing vocals sound like Japanese.

16. "Merry Xmas Everybody" - Slade

If you ask a Brit what their idea of the best Christmas song is, some might say John Lennon's "War Is Over" but the majority will say "Merry Xmas Everybody" by Slade. They are very proud of this export. It's a feel good, quasi-rock, yet not over the top Christmas song. And yes the 'X' is actually in the title. It was part of Slade's M.O to purposely misspell their song titles. Cheeky...

15. "Mary's Boy Child - Oh My Lord" - Boney M

Legendary Disco group Boney M arrived at the Christmas party with a version of Harry Belafonte's "Mary's Boy Child" only they synced it with their own flavour "Oh My Lord". The result is a catchy and unforgettable song, beaming with positivity and joy. Just the right prescription for the winter blues. Seriously how can anybody be miserable watching this video??

14. "Christmas Day" - Dido

Here's a sweet and simple track one might not even distinguish as a Christmas song were it not for the tell-tale sleigh bells playing faintly in the background. It's a common trend in movies and art that Christmas Day is the constant and the absolute for many relationships. Dido's song plays on this well as her hero promises that he will return to his love on Christmas Day. I wonder if he did...I wonder if I would...

13. "Wonderful Christmastime" - Paul McCartney

This one has been tattooed on my memory for quite some time. Hearing those addictive first swells of the song as a youth on the radio, I knew I would soon be swarmed by AM Christmas favourites, though if they could all be like this I wouldn't complain. The Cute One's knack for songwriting has never left him like many thought would happen after The Beatles split. This song is so simple, so linear...so freaking good.

12. "Breath Of Heaven" - Amy Grant

Kind of off the beaten path of what most people's conceptions of a Christmas song is. "Breath Of Heaven" (also called "Mary's Song") is a powerful song told through the virgin Mary's eyes during her and Joseph's voyage to Bethlehem. Whatever your beliefs are, this song is impressive for it's honesty and it's magnificent ability to take you from wherever you are and put you directly in that position. It's sad, brave and inspiring all at once. Wrapped in a beautiful package of Amy's heavenly voice.

11. "Feliz Navidad" - Jose Feliciano

I'm sure there are some that would scream blasphemy for not putting this one at the top of my list, but trust me, we only go up from here. Here's the english translation of what Jose is saying here "Merry Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness"

10. "Little Drummer Boy" - The Jackson 5

Yes I know it's already been on this list but as I said, it's my favourite Christmas Carol. There's something about the way the Jackson 5 belt this one out and the way the song keeps rising and reaching to that peak vesre when the baby smiles at him. It's a touching moment in Christmas mythology, performed marvelously by one of Motown's legendary groups.

9. "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)" - U2

U2 put their Irish tinge on a classic by Darlene Love and Phil Spector. Here's another song that's inspired by the memories within relationships Christmas tends to intensify. For some people it's just another day unless all the pieces fall together perfectly. They may be present at the celebration, but in their mind they're with someone else.

8. "Oi To The World" - The Vandals

Time for some Xmas punk. As a play on the typical Christmas anthem "Joy To The World" The Vandals craft a wonderful tale of brotherhood and good will towards man in "Oi To The World". It's since been covered by many bands, most notably by Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. More bands should try their hand at honest and unique Christmas music the way The Vandals did.

7. "Do They Know It's Christmas" - Band Aid

Band Aid was the brainchild of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. In 1984 Geldof was heavily effected by the famines in Ethiopia and wrote the song "Do They Know It's Christmas" to raise funds for it's relief. He amassed dozens of singers and pop stars of the era to provide vocals and music. Among those involved were Bono, Sting, George Michael,  Simon LeBon, Boy George and Phil Collins. Geldof went on to create Live Aid which raised further funds for the troubles in Africa and he has been on a similar crusade ever since.

6. "Christmas Is Coming" - The Payolas

Perhaps the greatest Christmas song ever forgotten in the pages of musical history is done by none other than Canada's Payolas! They sadly suffered from obscurity in other countries outside their own simply because DJs didn't like mentioning the word "Payola" on air. For some reason thats a touchy one for American Radio Djs...hmmm. Anyway, this song is great. About having nothing going for you, but it's still Christmas and the magic of the season can make all that go away for a few days at least. Christmas is coming, it's been a long year. I wish you were here...

5. "Snoopy's Christmas" - The Royal Guardsmen

As a kid I thought this was The Beatles under a different name...I also thought the song was about Snoopy in a dogfight with a red BEAR. I was kind of a dumb kid. This song speaks to the comradery that is an unspoken law around Christmas time. Even sworn enemies can put aside their differences for a night and enjoy a drink together. This song could have it's roots in a true event that happened one Christmas during World War I. When British and German soldiers agreed to a ceasefire on Christmas Day and met in between trenches, exchanging gifts, sharing photos and even playing a game of soccer.

4. "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" - John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Though this song can make you look uncomfortably at yourself at a time when you're supposed to be celebrating and enjoying the holidays, it's still one of the all time greats in terms of Christmas Music. Lennon's simple poetry and gifted songwriting could coax a crowded room to join in the chorus of "War Is Over".
Simple. Moving. Effective.

3. "Last Christmas" - Wham!

In the future kids won't sing "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" or "Jingle Bells" they'll sing Wham!'s "Last Christmas" in school assembly's around the holidays. That's how much of an impact this song had, to this day dozens of artists cover it each year. Jimmy Eat World, Human Nature and Taylor Swift are a few that come to mind in recent history. I wouldn't be surprised if the leeches at Glee got a hold of it...this song would still be strong though...the soul and heart of George Michael's words will last the test of time no matter who attempts to capitalize on it's power.

2. "Christmas Eve /Sarajevo" - Trans Siberian Orchestra

Here we are at number 2 and this one doesn't even have any vocals. It doesn't need them. This whole list I was praising songs on their beautiful simplicity, which is a honourable merit, but being complicated can also be beautiful. The Trans Siberian Orchestra has their talents down to an art....each piece in the orchestra and member on the backing rock band are so in tune with one another it creates a chaotic tapestry that can weave a story without even speaking a word. They are known for their brilliant live performances...if you ever get a chance to see them DO NOT pass it up. This group will not be around forever...and that will be a very sad Christmas.

1. "Fairytale Of New York" - The Pogues

There was no doubt what was waiting at #1. Irish group The Pogues crafted this masterpiece in 1987, almost an anti-Christmas tune, it's a ballad for all of us who've ever been alone with a bourbon on Christmas Eve. Kristy MacColl joins the band, making it a wonderful back and forth vocal offering of a relationship being tested by the holiday season. This song will always take me back to my younger days, as i'm sure it does for many listeners. It's really a song for any time of year being about what could have been or once was, it just happens to occur during Christmas. I love the outro....conjures the image of the two walking off into the unknown. Hand in hand. Whether they like it or not.

I've been wanting to do a list like that for a long time! I had fun! Hope you guys enjoyed it!
Happy Holidays from your mate Johnny Zhivago...the original Jay-Zed.

Monday, 5 December 2011

10 Great Songs By Guy/Girl Duos

Yes men and women are different. Can't live with 'em can't live without 'em, AM I RIGHT??? We both have to coexist on this planet however and as such we have figured a way to tolerate each other's company. Also along the way we have realized certain things about the other that we rather enjoy and things we enjoying doing with one another. Making great music is no exception. 10 great songs by guy/girl duos!

1. "Relator" - Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson

There was a time when celebrities were expected to be masters of all the arts and not just a select few. Movie stars of old  were dancers, singers, actors and even writers. It should come as no surprise then that many modern day actors are quite capable singers and musicians. Pete Yorn is a well established musician in his own right, and Johansson certainly has some singing chops. This track is from their combined 2009 album Break Up, an album told through the perspective of a man and woman in a rocky relationship.

2. "Love Letter To Japan" - The Bird & The Bee

Consisting of members Irana George (the bird) and Greg Kurston (the bee), The Bird and The Bee came to be when George was working on a solo album with producer Kurston. The 2 got along swimmingly and decided to make an electro album together. That was 2006 and they are currently on their 3rd album with no signs of slowing.

3. "Steak For Chicken" - The Moldy Peaches

The Moldy Peaches were the brainchild of Adam Green. His unique brand of anti-folk, and quirky lyrics attracted a small following in his college years. Kimya Dawson was one of the contributors when he eventually took it to new heights and the two were collectively known as The Moldy Peaches. Their deadpan and honest vocal stylings demanded your attention whether you were a fan of it or not. They broke up in 2004, but enjoyed a short lived resurgence in 2007 when their songs were prominently featured in the film Juno.

4. "You Don't Know What Love Is" - The White Stripes

Probably one of the most famous man/woman duos at the moment. Jack and Meg White were once an item, in fact it was Jack who took Meg's last name of White. There are many songs that I could have chosen from, "You Don't Know What Love Is" from 2007's Icky Thump has always been a stand out favourite of mine however. Great guitar licks, honest lyrics and an actual interesting and fitting drumbeat, also some key backing vocals from Meg, make this one worthy.

5. "Hideaway" - The Weepies

It was one of those late night youtube scanning sessions of mindlessly clicking on one suggested video after another when I stumbled upon The Weepies. Husband and wife duo Steve & Deb from Cambridge, Massachusetts, have crafted a lovely version of heartfelt folk. What i've noticed about them though, as I do own one of their albums, is one song can sound completely different from the next. I love when bands have that ability and are brave enough to step out of their comfort zones. Other songs to check out "World Spins Madly On", "All Good Things" and "Can't Go Back Now".

6. "Heartbeats" - The Knife

Siblings Olof and Karin Dreijer from Sweden are also known as electro-clash duo The Knife. They have drawn comparisons to Daft Punk because of the nature of their music and their knack for wearing masks during concerts and in public. Critically and publicly acclaimed alike, The Knife took a break while Karin worked on her side project Fever Ray in 2010. Though they have announced a new Knife album will be released in 2012. Joy!

7. "Superstar" - The Carpenters

Another brother/sister duo. Though I don't know much about them I felt it would be a disservice had I not included The Carpenters. The classic story of burning out before fading away, The Carpenters shot to super stardom in the 60's and 70's. Enjoying success over a multitude of albums. In early 1983 Karen Carpenter died at the young age of 32, due to an ongoing battle with anorexia. Richard Carpenter has since kept his sister's legacy alive through producing some of their unreleased recordings.

8. "Rill Rill" - Sleigh Bells

The Electro scene seems to have it's share of duos, maybe because of the lack of multiple instruments needed to create the music, also a woman with a great voice can accompany a sexy beat perfectly. Here we have Brooklyn's Sleigh Bells. The pair met in a classic New York scenario: Derek Miller was waiting tables in a diner, making money for his DJing passion when he overheard Alexis Krauss and her mother talking about her singing career. Derek mentioned he needed a vocalist for his latest project and the rest is history...

9. "Dead Sound" - The Raveonettes

Denmark's Raveonettes actually started their journey with more members, and released 2 albums with four members on one and five on another. Through one circumstance or another members started dropping off leaving only Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo. Funny that I prefer their songs as a duo over their full band efforts.

10. "Here Comes The Rain Again" - The Eurythmics

Had to do it. Had to include the music world's most famous male/female duo. The Eurythmics. It's a formula for success when you put two free spirits in a room and get them to record an album., and when one of those people is the musical master Dave Stewart and the other is the textbook definition of a singer and stage presence in Annie Lennox. It's one for the ages. Any song by The Eurythmics could have been included here, they're consistently good.

Thats it for this time! Christmas is coming! Send me your list ideas!!!