Category Archives: Not Riffs

Music Video Oscar; DJ Shadow feat. Run The Jewels – Nobody Speak

I was on a work trip to the UAE for the last week. The hotel TV didn’t have anything to watch so I spent a lot of time on Youtube, leading me to find the music video for “Nobody Speak” from the newest DJ Shadow album. I’d never heard of DJ Shadow before but I knew who Run the Jewels were, so I decided to give it a go.

Hip-hop may or may not be your thing (I dig it) but genre aside, this video is fucking superb. Goddamn Academy Award-level shit. The setup, production, acting, song beats, the song itself. The whole thing gels so damn well it almost brings a tear to my eye. Usually the actors are the weak link in the lip-syncing-a-rapper video segment but in this case, these actors fucking kill it.



Boom-Bap: 2014 Golden Era Records Cypher

Y’all know by now that I’ve always liked me some good hip-hop. I’ve even had the audacity to mention it here before. Well, it’s another one of those times with the release of the 2014 Golden Era Records Cypher. Released in anticipation of their 2014 mixtape (coming next week), it features the full Golden Era crew spitting verses across seven minutes of smooth beats.

Golden Era have been a long-standing part of my musical history, as I discovered them in high school and their roster has been in steady rotation since. While they aren’t boundary pushing or headline breaking like Odd Future or Death Grips, they have been delivering solid bangers year after year after year. Everyone has some sick flows as usual, with K21 providing the strongest entry in opinion.

Watch below and I’ll post up about the mixtape when it finally gets released. Last years was sick and this years should be no exception.

Whiskey + Youtube = Leningrad

I live with a bunch of really chill people. We not be very exciting but everything vibes so well I can forgive our Friday night ritual of getting drunk and watching movies or browsing Youtube. Last night was decidedly a Youtube night but it has the distinction of being the first to point me at some new music.

At some point in our evening of shuffling through videos like a deck of cards, we stumbled on a video of a group of musicians playing on a beach-front backyard. The video looks as is if it was filmed on a handheld but the quality of the musicianship hinted at something much more than amateur.

This is the video in question:

The vocal hook and brass riffs sunk themselves in brain real deep, deep enough for me to remember to track whatever the hell this was down in the morning. It took a bit of searching, mainly because I had no idea what the fuck this was called. I was eventually successful though and now know this video belongs to a very long-running Russian band called Leningrad.

They have been cranking out albums since 1999 according to Wikipedia and have become infamous not only for their infectious music but also for their exceptionally vulgar lyrics and stage presence. From what I’ve gathered they either sing about booze, sex or nonsense (The above song is about not finding a pair of shoes that fit). They don’t get radio play because of this and have all of their attempts at large shows shut down by Moscow’s mayor.

Musically they play modern big-band compositions with a really rich sound thanks to a massive ensemble of musicians. Bouncing somewhere between ska, polka and swing, their music is a lot of fun to listen to even if you have no idea what they’re saying. Vocals are either provided by a drunk homeless man or a svelte jazz singer, which provides one hell of a contrast.

I’m not even going to start diving into their discog yet, with all of 20+ albums in it. This post was more to raise some attention and share it with y’all. I included one more song and links to their wiki and Facebook below. Most of their albums are on iTunes and you can get the album “Fish” for free from their website.

Leningrad Wiki

Leningrad Facebook

That Funk: X-Ray Zebras – Raw Beat

I love funk. It’s undeniable how enjoyable a solid funky jam is and I’m always ecstatic to find new artists that bring the funk through a variety of different mediums. Sadly, when it comes to browsing Bandcamp I have a pretty bad habit of looking through the same tags, letting a lot of gems pass me by. On the bright side, my good friend and housemate always seems to have his ear to the ground when it comes to these releases, keeping me well stocked with bangers like this.

X-Ray Zebras are a Quebec-based band who have been making music since 2010. “Raw Beat” is their newest EP and was released on January 15th. Musically they bring a stellar combination of sampled, live and electronic based jazz/funk jams to the dinner table. A diverse combination of styles, they blend everything from bottom-heavy modern electronic sounds to lighter guitar chords and a couple various examples of some hip-hop rhymes and beats.

The key to any type of musical mixing pot like this is being able to blend all of your chosen ingredients in a way that makes them greater than the sum of their parts. This is no small feat but is one Zebras pull of with considerable aplomb. These 4 tracks just groooove in all right the ways and make your backbone wiggle in all the right places. Even on a slower, more emotional track like “Bears”, they still manage to inject a bounce throughout the whole damn thing.

“Raw Beat” is also defined by a much mellower tone than you might here in other electro-funk releases. You’re not beat over the brain with insatiable rhythms and a wall-rockin’ beat, instead they choose to take a much more subtle and refined route. All their songs are heavily structured and take their time to get where they are going, layering different sounds and melodies, dipping and diving through your ears instead of just blowing the door wide open. Smooth would probably be the best word for these guys. Or suave. Yeah, I like that one better.

Probably the number reason I love music and bands like this is due to the amount of energy and just straight up fun that gets packed into the music. I love a blackened monolith of a guitar riff as much as the next person but limiting yourself to any set number of genres means you miss out on excellent releases like this. There is a time and place for every type of music and this is for those times you just wanna jam.

Name-your-price on Bandcamp, so don’t be a bum and throw these guys some coin. Links and stream below.

X-Ray Zebras Facebook

X-Ray Zebras Bandcamp

Delightfully Weird: New Apple Taste – Abuseum

I sat down last night and realized I didn’t have any new music to write about. I had been cruising along for a while just catching up on all of the stuff that had been accumulating in my library. So now that I’m all caught it up, it was time to drag the net out and go Bandcamp trawling once again. Luckily my first haul had plenty of solid jams which I’ll be writing about during the holidays.

Starting us off is an wonderfully odd combination of jazz, rap and funk that goes by the name New Apple Taste. A Montreal based group of several musicians and two MC’s, they released their second album, “Abuseum”, during September of this year. This is a fairly unusual hybrid, with the rhymes being backed by fancy jazz and funk sounds as opposed to syncopated beats or guitars.

It’s a combination that initially gave me pause, as I really wasn’t sure what to expect from my speakers. However I was more than pleased when I realized the amount of polish, performance and panache put into this collection of 14 tracks. They manage to strike an elegant balance between the vocal and instrumental delivery, carefully blending ear-pleasing grooves with equally matched rapping.

Now I don’t know shit about the intricacies of jazz and I have pretty loose standards for rapping, so I’m not the best authority to talk technically on a band like this. Just on just sheer enjoyment factor however, “Abuseum” is pretty damn stellar, a gratifying listen from open to close. Everything plays well together, with the vocals falling into perfect step with the intricate rhythms. Neither one overpowers or steals the spotlight from another, always doing their level best to keep your head a’nodding.

Bands like this make just a little bit excited for the future of music. As much as I love the tried and true classics it is always nice to find a group of people who are pushing and playing with modern to music to see what they can come up with. In the case of New Apple Taste they know exactly what the hell they are doing and it will be exciting to see what they spawn in the future.

New Apple Taste Facebook

New Apple Taste Bandcamp

Guilty Pleasures: Groovy Shiva EP


I’ve finally got a nice little lull before I have to start caring about midterms and the like, so I’m going to try and crank out as much new music as I can.

Today your getting a band I have mixed feelings about, hence the guilty pleasures title. The band is Groovy Shiva, they hail from France and play a combination of reggae/dub, hardcore and hip-hop. While most people, myself include, would have written this off as a terrible musical idea dreamt up by some half-drunk fratboys, the weird thing is, it all works.

I know there will be those who would raise contention with what is essential a French Limp Cookie/Linkin Park mashup but if your willing to give it a listen through you’ll find a solid collection of  crowd-surfing, party rock style anthems that are pretty damn catchy. The only real point of contention I have is them using a hardcore label, since they’re just playing bare-bones groove metal riffs/vocals. It’s not hardcore in any past or present form of the word.

Genre nitpicking aside, Groovy Shiva do an excellent job of hybridizing their three styles, giving each of them plenty of breathing room, instead of just jumbling everything together. The aforementioned groove metal riffage serves as the cement of the foundation. It’s not original, it’s not technical and it’s not pushing any boundaries. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, infectious or groovy, attributes they have in spades.

The riffs are frequently mixed with some turntable work, giving way to the Limp Cookie feel I mentioned. These sections are blended smoothly into the hip-hop or reggae sections, with dropping the pace or the figurative ball. I think the reason they can pull this off is because on their own, all of the elements are extremely simple, which is beneficially when your going to be jumping through styles like these guys do.

The vocals are predominately in French, with some snatches of English thrown in. I personally prefer this, French has a nice inherent musicality and adds a unique flavor to what would have been considerably more bland is sung in only English.

They live up to their name, with all of the tracks having their own unique, yet still unshakable groove. This music isn’t hip, it isn’t fashionable but it’s loud, wreckless and fun as hell, and really, what else do you need?

I get the feeling this will be a love/hate thing for most people, so I’ve got your usual streams below for you to formulate your own opinions. The 8 track EP can be downloaded for a “Name Your Price” option on Bandcamp. Now I’ve got to get to class.

Groovy Shiva Facebook

Groovy Shiva Bandcamp

Divergence from Down Under: Golden Era Records 2013 Sampler

Good afternoon. Today I’ve got some divergence from down under in the form of the Golden Era Records “2013 Sampler”. For those who have never heard of them (most of you I’m guessing), Golden Era is an Australian record label that has been responsible for pretty much all of the stellar hip-hop coming out of that patch of ocean. I was first exposed to Australian hip-hop back in high school thanks to the label’s founders, the Hilltop Hoods.

I’ve always loved Australian hip-hop for it’s emphasis on catchy hooks, funk laden grooves and some of the best MC’s and DJ’s in my opinion. To me there was always a sense of flow that I had never heard before, just solid rhymes and beats, without any frivolous choruses or other bullshit. Over time I found many other Australian artists as there’s a lot of cameo’s and features between each of the groups. This gives the music a great feeling of community, where everybody was making music for the same reasons.

Since I’d been meaning to write a piece about this music for a while, finding this fresh mixtape was the perfect reason to write something up and also serves as a great introduction into a scene that’s relatively unheard of in North America. Packed with 22 bangers from Australia’s biggest and brightest groups, from Briggs, Vents, Funkoars, K21, and the aforementioned Hilltop Hoods. All of these tracks are expertly tied together, with the mixer, Jaytee, using a variety of samples and international shout-outs to seamlessly stitch the entire thing together.

The flavor is most definitely hip-hop but each of the artists has their own signature style to bring to the table. Bass heavy tracks by Briggs sit beside the more aggressive  party-rock styled Funkoars jams. The Hilltop Hoods have a fairly established sound, something that’s a bit more melodic than other offerings. K21 is a relatively new name to me but I’m enjoying his lightning quick delivery and complex rhymes.

I’m really bad at writing about hip-hop some I’m just going to keep things short. If your still reading and in the mood to listen to some of this music you can find the entire mixtape streaming on Soundcloud or you can head on over to the Golden Era website to download it for free. You can find those links plus a freestyle video that showcases all the artists in this mix below. Enjoy!

Golden Era Mixtape

Golden Era Facebook


Musical Deviance Part 2: Quakers

*Warning: Hip-hop below. You have been warned.*

Welcome to the second part of my week of musical deviance. As I mentioned in the first post (found here), I haven’t really listened to any riffs this week. Instead I’ve been alternating between big-band jazz and the subject of today’s post, hip-hop.

I’ve always liked hip-hop to a certain degree but I’ve always been picky about what I like to listen too. This has made my taste somewhat eclectic, bouncing between Australian natives Hilltop Hoods to some classic Wu-Tang. Two things I always look for are interesting beats and infectious rhymes, something that the self-titled debut from the 35 person collective, Quakers, has in spades..

By the numbers this is a project headed by 3 produces, featuring 35 MC’s and resulting in 41 tracks with a run time of just over an hour. So yeah, it’s a pretty big fucking collection of music. I’m not going to start naming names either, partially because of the sheer number of bodies involved but mostly because even if you followed recent hip-hop these names wouldn’t ring a bell.

The project was created as an effort to showcase the biggest and brightest talents that no ones heard of and then cramming all their rhymes into one massive album. The first thing I noticed after finally finishing a listen through is that even though this collection covers a dozen different styles, beats and rhythms, it all ends up sounding musically cohesive. Tracks flow together perfectly, sometimes you can’t even tell the song has changed until a new MC starts up.

One problem with this approach is some songs manage to stick in your head much more than others, causing the next couple tracks to loose their oomph. This is a very small complaint though, as more than %80 of this album is top-notch shit to my uneducated ears. Due to that fact I’m just going to highlight some of the tracks that really stood out to me, when in reality, the whole album kills.

One of the first tracks to hit me was the huge brass section and back-alley drawl of “Fitta Happier”. Watch below.

This is exactly the kind of stuff I look for, beats that slap a nod into your head and rhymes that make you feel like a twelve foot tall grizzly bear smoking a blunt and driving a Cadillac. Next up is “What Chew Want”.

Smooth flows, drum breaks and one hell of a voice. A couple tracks later we’ve got “Mummy”.

And a little later on we get the last track I’ll showcase, “War Drums”.

Even with those four tracks you can see a huge difference in the beats, rhymes and flows but nothing every sounds out of place. Everything ends up mixed together perfectly, a challenging feat considering every track is scrabbling for your attention. It’s a rapid fire of underground hip-hop that just sounds so damn good and like I said before, none of the 41 tracks disappoint.

So if you’ve made your way through that and still haven’t condemned me as a blasphemer and stormed off in a huff, then you can pick up “Quakers” from the US iTunes or from Stones Throw Records. Links below and don’t worry, the riffs will be back tomorrow.

Stones Throw Records


Musical Deviance Part 1: The Seatbelts

*Confession Time: I haven’t listened to any riffs this week. I know, but just bear with me.*

Afternoon folks. I’ve finally found myself a lull between deadlines and impending exams, giving me just enough time to talk about some of the music sashaying through my ears this week.

If your still reading after my little confessional than chances are your ears are open to some tasty riff alternatives. The music in this case is courtesy of The Seatbelts, a Japanese/International jazz group headed by Yoko Kanno. I found them for what they are most famous for, the music of Cowboy Bebop, a late ’90’s anime about space-faring bounty hunters. Chances are if you like anime you’ve already seen it but if you haven’t I highly advise giving it a watch.

One of the things that makes Cowboy Bebop stand out in my mind is the integration of the music into the stories. The music is just as much of a character as the cast is and most of the episodes are based around one musical theme, or use one style. The other standout fact is the sheer diversity during the series. Musical styles bounce between eerie noir-style crawls, big-band jazz sessions, ambient orchestral arrangements and classic western/blues twanging. All of these styles were preformed by The Seatbelts.

They currently have seven albums, four of which are Cowboy Bebop related, the other three are originals. I’ve managed to track down a pretty solid discography to give everything a listen, which is far more convenient than trying to track down every album. Since there was such a massive variety of music in these albums, it’s not surprising that I didn’t enjoy everything. What I did enjoy (and what I’m going to highlight) is the big-band jazz sessions and western blues songs, as these were the two styles I enjoyed the most.

Since I don’t really have the experience or knowledge to write anything in-depth on this music, this post is more aimed at exposing the music and seeing if y’all like it too. Here’s a live version of their most infamous song for the opening of Cowboy Bebop, “Tank!”:

I’ve always loved the sound of big band, probably thanks to my mothers rotation of early ’50’s classics. Suffice to say very few things put a chill down my spine like a full brass section going balls out. Here’s another of the big band efforts, “Too Good, Too Bad”:

So damn tasty. One thing I’ve noticed is that if you listen to a lot of complex or technical metal, large jazz compositions will have similar elements to metal songs. Little bits and snatches of song that seem familiar, or time signatures you can relate to a much heavier song. I might just be crazy though.

The other style of The Seatbelts I mentioned was their western blues songs. Cowboy Bebop is essentially about space cowboys and the mix of old west twanging guitars and howling blues harmonicas works amazing with lonely shots of a ship in space. Probably the most famous example of this style is shown below in “Spokey Dokey”:

It’s a haunting kind of music, melancholy and alone, at home in both the black vacuum of space and the searing hot sands of the desert. The harmonica is severly underused instrument in modern rock ‘n’ roll, so it does my ears good to hear it given the main stage. Here’s a guitar centered piece, “Forever Broke”.

Well that’s all I really wanted to accomplish, I hope I’ve piqued your interest for some new musical styles. If your looking to listen to an album/pick one up, I’d suggest just getting the straight Cowboy Bebop soundtrack, as it covers all the styles and classic songs. I’ll end with two more of my favorites, “Want it All Back” (one of the few songs with lead vocals) and “Mushroom Hunting”. Enjoy.