Sun. Oct 13th, 2019

AwardsWatch Weekly Music Roundup: Week of November 25, 2013

Hi folks, the roundup took a week off but we’re back in full force. Check out what AW is listening this week and what you should be too.

TLC back in the day; left to right: T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili
TLC back in the day; left to right: T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili

What George Portades is listening to this week…

With this being TLC’s 20th year in the music industry, fans were rewarded with two new hits compilations (Japan’s TLC 20 and US’ 20), a reality docu-series (Totally T-Boz), a hit collaboration with J. Cole (“Crooked Smile”), a highly-rated biopic (CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story) and a new studio album set for 2014. The one new track from their 20 album, “Meant to Be” serves as a fitting ballad for the group once again showcasing Chilli’s melodic vocals, T-Boz’s signature raspy voice and strong lyrics by Ne-Yo. The song reflects on their bond as a group from the beginning of their careers to what they’ve been through, along with a very inspirational chorus that recalls some of Michael Jackson’s classic songs. I’m pretty excited for the return of my favorite R&B girl group, and I do hope they find a way to include some of Left Eye’s raps into their new album. 3D was a very solid effort, but the previously unreleased/released raps from Left Eye on that effort weren’t as smoothly incorporated as they could’ve been. Here’s hopes to the start of a new and successful era for the ladies of TLC, and thanks from a very happy fan for one incredible year of celebration.

Serving as the opening track of their excellent (although highly overlooked) latest album 10, “We Own Tonight” is such a killer mid-tempo ballad filled with many layers of wonderful harmonies. It also features an instance where they have more than two leads on a track, as it includes a rare (and very awesome) vocal segment by Jonathan Knight on the bridge! 10 is definitely one of my top albums of the year, perhaps being my favorite NKOTB album to date. From the retro “Remix (I Like The)” to feel good dance tracks like “The Whisper” (their latest single – of which the music video is a great thank you to the fans) and “Crash” and to such refreshing tracks like the bluesy “Jealous (Blue),” the album is one that doesn’t get dull at any moment. While I’m saddened that their upcoming 2014 cruise has completely sold out already (one of these years I’ll get to go!), I’m happy to have heard that they’ve gotten their own reality game show series set for next year! I’m glad they’re back, and as a person who became a big fan during their initial reunion (“The Block”), I hope to see them in tour sometime in the future!

This track is surely one of the highlights from one of the year’s most solid R&B albums, featuring such slinky (if that the right word?) vocals and a soothing and relaxing instrumental. Talk a Good Game already features the very playful “Kisses Down Low” in addition to the very autobiographical “Dirty Laundry” (which could land Ms. Rowland another Grammy nod soon), the set’s next single is “Gone.” I hope that the single does well, so that we get a chance to see “Red Wine” get released next, or at the most, I’d love to see a video produced for it. Rowland knows how to alternate between energetic dance tracks (see “When Love Takes Over” and “Down For Whatever”), contemporary R&B (“Lay It On Me” “Like This”), but as of late, she’s been putting out pretty seductive tracks (“Ice” “Motivation”) that just elude crazy sexiness. “Red Wine” fits in that realm, but it also blends and fits well as a perfect track for a long drive.


What Haley Anne is listening to this week…

Build a Record Collection!

This week, I’m doing something a little special in honor of Record Store Day, which is the 29th. (Fall Out Boy’s Pax Am Days is the Record Store Day release I’m going to pick up, because I’m predictable.) I love vinyl, own a record player, and love shopping for both old and new records, but the task of starting a new collection can be somewhat daunting. Here are some tips and some recommendations to all those looking to start a record collection:

– Buy used. There’s a huge price difference between a shiny new record and a used record, for starters, but a used record has a lot of the crackling atmosphere that makes vinyl so unique. When buying used, just make sure that the record is free of huge scratches or melting. There is an advantage to buying a new record – most will come with a digital download of the album as well.

– Grab some classics. Vinyl is a relatively inexpensive way to experience some of the best albums of the 70s and 80s in the way they were intended to be heard. Albums like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, and Michael FleetwoodMacRumorsJackson’sThriller are very easy to find and work well when played for any audience. Most of these albums have also been reissued for today’s growing vinyl market, so if you decide to purchase them new, there’s a strong likelihood that their audio tracks have been remastered for even better sound.

– Certain eras of music do not sound great on vinyl. Generally, newer albums mastered for CD have been compressed to an insane degree, making the album louder and less dynamic. You probably want to avoid buying any of these albums on vinyl as a result, as heavily compressed music doesn’t sound as rich on vinyl. (There are plenty of resources online to help you figure out which music you own is heavily compressed.) Albums with a lot of audio variation, like Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and the Guns N Roses discography, bring out a record player’s best sound.

– Modern music with a throwback sound is more fun to listen to on vinyl. It’s completely arbitrary, honestly. But albums like Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox work well slipped into a record rotation of classics.

– Don’t jump through hoops to buy vinyl. A large chunk of Arcade Fire’s first-week sales for Reflektor this year came from vinyl purchases. Most larger cities have one or two record stores, and most labels issue vinyl versions of albums that are easily purchased online.


What Shahab Yunus is listening to this week…

Albums from Michael Nau’s Cotton Jones

I discovered Maryland-based Michael Nau’s latest outfit Cotton Jones just recently, and I am simply hooked. Consisting of Nau, his wife Whitney McGraw and Todd McGowan, the more that I’ve listened to it, the prevalent feeling is of puzzlement in regards that why this guy isn’t more well known. With more than 4 LPs and 3 EPs under his belt under Cotton Jones and additional work in other bands before his latest incantation, Nau makes such genuine and melodious music, ranging from a vast spectrum of American music and vows with his mature, (he is just in his late 20s) slightly lilting vocals, whether it is 60s psychedelic rock or blues or country/bluegrass of 70s. Right now I can’t get enough of LPs, the Paranoid Cocoon from 2009 and Talls Hours in the Glowstream from 2010. The band has seemingly kept a low-profile, perhaps intentionally and continues to play extremely small shows, sometime even private arrangements. This goes with the attitude that they have adopted in releasing their music where couple of records (LP/EPs) in addition to the mentioned above were released but in extremely limited editions (just 500 or so copies) and hard to get hold of. But hey, it means that I have some treasure hunting to do.
In Paranoid Cocoon, you could hear the influence of troubadour artistry of Donovan and Van Morrison and in some places things get intriguing where wails of Rolling Stones or the melancholically deadpan but sharp-as-knife work of The Animals. In fact the song construction and vocal on “Gone the Bells” reminds, for an instance, of Hazelwood/Sinatra duo! There is a little bit of funk too as in “Little Ashtray in the Sun.” But perhaps that best ones (Morrison inspired) are those seem to be about seeking redemption (“Blood Red Sentimental Blues”) and painful realization of ones faults (“I Am a Changer”, which clocks almost at 7 minutes.) The keyboards, organ, and strings along with the light drums and percussions create a wonderful low-key musical atmosphere for slow rainy days or clear quiet nights. The ethereal vocals and whistling here of Nau (often backed by sweet, much smaller voice of his wife McGraw) never over power and instead becomes part of the production, another aural instrument, guiding you on the journey. Keeping with the a popular trend of the era which inspires this record, the lyrics are cryptic, almost neo-psychedelic as the music.
Picks: Photo SummerludeBlood Red Sentimental BluesI Am the ChangerLittle Ashtray in Sun.

The other great LP Tall Hours in the Glowstream, sees Jones venturing into more of a electronic-folk territory. Here you have the contemporary dream-pop direction dominating the cottonjones2record. In fact, the similarities here are very modern like less-digitized version of Tennis, Best Coast, or Melody’s Echo Chamber; and this record seems a transformation into a hipster (positive connotation meant here, mind you!) indie-folk band. The country-blues instruments are all still here–the keyboard, organ,etc–but the arrangements and sentimentality has changed. What you have here is a the modern pop-haze of wistfulness. The soft-shaker with reverb vocals in “Somehow to Keep it Going” takes the song to another level of a bittersweet longing. Even in songs like “Song by Numbers”, the overall Americana is disturbed with instrumental break of a very forceful, unorthodox acoustic guitar/string riffs. Weaker spots are there, like a middling Tammy Wynette knock-off, “Man Climbed out of Winter”, pity that the lyrics are pretty solid. One of the best tracks here are the instrumentals like “Shake” and “Nayburs,” though the star of the record is the poignant “Somehow to Keep it Going”, valuing the past and present, time gone and coming, birth and death, all at the same time.
Picks: Goethe NaybursSomehow to Keep it GoingDream on Columbia StreetSoft Mountain Shake.

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