Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Music Video: Marteria - Kids

There are a lot of artists out there who come out with a great first album, then kind of fade away as they run through their best material.  Other artists only seem to improve with every album that they put out.

Marteria is one of these artists.

I have always liked Marteria's German-language hip-hop sound.  Even in his alternate incarnation as Marsimoto, his beats and rhymes were pretty decent - even if the Marsimoto concept gets old very quickly.  But over the course of his three albums as Marteria, it has been exciting to watch him grow and improve.  His first album, Base Ventura, was decent enough.  His second, Zum Glück in die Zukunft, with its track Secundenschlaf, was really good.  His collaborative EP with Miss Platnum and Yasha, Lila Wolken, was freakin' awesome.

So, today I bring you Marteria's hit track Kids from his recently released album Zum Glück in die Zukunft II.  I don't know whether it's the chorus that burrows into my head, or just the visuals of attractive female German field hockey players busting through an office in the video that I find so appealing (the latter predilection dating from my years attending a private prep school in the United States), but a month or so after first hearing this track, I still find myself frequently humming it to myself.  Oh, and the rest of the album is equally good too.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Music Video: Stromae - Papaoutai

I absolutely adore the music coming out of Belgium these days.  I don't know what it is about that small country of just 11 million people, but they create some spectacular music out of all proportion to their size.  Unfortunately - at least from the standpoint of this blog - much of the awesome artists from Belgium perform in English.  Selah Sue, Customs, The Van Jets, Hooverphonic, and many others are artists who would pull in crowds anywhere.  But they all perform mostly or exclusively in English.  While that is fine from a marketing perspective, from my selfishly and jealously nativistic (in a nationally agnostic sort of way) perspective, this is too bad.  However, while I was perusing YouTube this afternoon, I was stunned to find a Belgian artist with hits in the tens of millions (and one with over 111 million hits!!!!!!!!), not just for one song - that could be considered a fluke - but for multiple songs.  How is an artist with this many hits not climbing to the top of the American charts and winning multiple Grammys?

Well, for one thing, Stromae only sings in French.

Born of a Belgian mother and a Rwandan father who was killed in the Rwandan genocide, Stromae produces an incredible blend of hip hop, electronica, dance, chanteur, and Caribbean.   His recent song Papaoutai perfectly encapsulates this uniquely infectious sound.   Stromae is everything I started this blog to find.  I hope you enjoy him too.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Music Video: Moop Mama - Liebe

I have always taken a certain perverse pleasure in music that defies rules and genres.  I enjoy the polka/punk stylings of Polkacide.  I groove on Deutsch/reggae rhythm of Seeed.  Even the lounge/new wave hybrid of Nouvelle Vague excites me, despite its almost hypnotic mellowness.  So, what happens when you combine hip-hop with jazz and marching band instrumentation (yes, even including a sousaphone!)?  You get Moop Mama from Munich, and in particular, you get their single from 2012, Liebe.

A year or so ago, I wrote about another band called LaBrassBanda that has become quite popular here in Germany that comes from rural Bavaria, and that also combines rap with brass.  But while LaBrassBanda brings in more classical instrumentation and influences combined with a more traditional rock and roll rhythm section, Moop Mama is essentially a marching band with vocals rapped at hyper speed.  Moop Mama describes their style as "urban brass".  I think of it more as a half-time-show with attitude.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Music Video: Miraculous - ยังเสียใจ (Still Sad)

There's something that I always enjoy about really hip-hoppy/poppy reggae.  If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'd know that I love artists that combine upbeat melodies and hip-hop influenced vocals with syncopated Caribbean and African rhythms.  So, artists like Seeed, Afroreggae, Irie Révoltés, and Culcha Candela get a lot of play here.

Well, just because I am going all the way to Thailand today does not mean that I will break with this tradition.  In fact, if you replace the German and English of Seeed, or the French and German of Irie Révoltés, or the Spanish and German of Culcha Candela with the Thai and English of Miraculous - as you do on their song ยังเสียใจ (Still Sad) - you will not feel overwhelming culture shock.

Unfortunately, like much of the music that I find from Asia, I am having a difficult time finding information about Miraculous that I can actually translate.  Bing Translator does yeoman's work of attempting to translate the band's bio on Last.fm from Thai to English, but the result is largely an unreadable garble. This is made even more difficult because, like a frustrating number of bands from around the world, their name is neither terribly unique or easily searchable.  That having been said, if you know anything about Miraculous, please post to the comments.  I'd love to know more.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Music Video: Gazelle feat. Francois van Coke - Val Van Die Ryk

I like to think that I always keep my eyes - and particularly my ears - open for new bands from interesting corners of the world.  For those of you who have browsed my entries over the past few years, you will note that I have tried to collect an eclectic variety of music from the Americas, from Asia, and from Europe.  But, with a few exceptions, I have not gotten into Africa very much - at least not much from sub-Saharan Africa.  This is not from a lack of interest.  If I had to come up with an at least semi-plausible excuse, it would be because while there are large music lobbies (professional and amateur) for Latin Alternative, or Euro Dance, or K-Pop/J-Pop, there are not that many people out there saying, "You've GOT to check out this awesome Afrikaans alternative band!"

Well, you've GOT to check out this awesome Afrikaans alternative band!  Actually, Val Van Die Ryk is a melding of Afrikaans Cape Town art/pop duo Gazelle and Francois van Coke, lead singer of Cape Town's alternative rock band Van Coke Kartel.  Together, van Coke's driving rock vocals combine with Gazelle's more poppy, funky, arty sensibilities to create a song that is reminiscent of 1980s New Wave, with elements of metal, and alternative.  Top it all off with lyrics in Afrikaans, a southern African Dutch dialect, and you have something fresh, interesting, and very listenable. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Music Video: Big Zoo - Good Day

I've said it before, and I'll probably say it a few more times, but finding music in Asia is really difficult.  I speak some German, I can muddle through in French, and I watched enough Sesame Street while growing up in the 1970s to get a little bit of Spanish.  But Chinese - particularly regional Chinese dialects - not so much.

But today I stumbled (as I so often do) upon the now more or less defunct Chinese rap group out of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province.  Again, as I've said before in a different context, rap is a tool that has been used across the world and in dozens of different languages, as a medium for social commentary and protest.  Rapping in their local Sichuanese dialect, English, and French, Big Zoo is no different.  Combine that social commentary with some harsh tasty beats, and you have a winning combination in any language.

They are hard to find (I can't even find a photo of them), but Good Day is a nice introduction to Big Zoo's uncompromising and straight ahead style.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bundesvision Song Contest 2013: Let's try this again

I can't believe it, but this is my fourth year trying to cover the entrants to Germany's Bundesvision Song Contest.  If you are one of my regular readers, you will know that my record of covering this contest is spotty at best.  The first year I tried, in 2009, I did alright.  I reviewed all of the songs, and even suggested my opinion of the best entrant (I think my favorite artist came in around 9th, if I remember correctly).  Years two and three, God knows I tried, but I just couldn't get around to writing a dedicated post for each entrant.  Part of it was that many entries were not available to review digitally until just a few days prior to the contest, leaving me precious little time to write anything coherent about them.  Part of it was simply that the real world occasionally intrudes on my fantasy that I have anything to contribute to the Bundesvision debate.

But, I am nothing if not persistent.  This year, though, I will take a different approach.  This year I will simply make one BIG Bundesvision post.  I will link to the song.  I will share a photo and a brief description of the artist.  And I will give my very brief impression of the song.

And so, without further ado, here we go:

Baden-Würtemberg:  Max Herre - Nicht Vorbei
Yep, here we are less than a week before Bundesvision 2013, and Max Herre's entry still isn't entirely available.  I have a love/hate relationship with Max Herre.  Herre started out his career as a rapper, and just between you and me, I think he's average - at best - at that.  He just has no edge; no hook.  He is like the rap equivalent of John Tesh playing death metal.  No matter how much effort goes into the craft, it just doesn't work for me.  That having been said, when Herre uses his ample musical talents to actually sing melodies, he is amazing.  His 2009 album "Ein geschenkter Tag," which was very stripped down acoustic guitar rock, was awesome.  From what I can tell of Nicht Vorbei, he is trying to blend his rap and his acoustic guitar rock into one hybrid package.  We'll see when the full song comes out if it improves, but I'm not holding my breath on this one.

Bavaria:  Charly Bravo - Dreckige Namen
When I first came of musical age in the 1980s, I fell in love with artists like Falco.  Yeah, he was Austrian and not Bavarian, and yeah, Falco died 15 years ago.  But that, for all intents and purposes, is where the difference between Charly Bravo and Falco ends.  Both are purveyors of insidiously catchy electro-disco.  Both play heavily on their very European musical sensibilities.  That's all well and good, but the 80s were the 80s, and 2013 is 2013.  That's not to say that I don't like some retro-flavored songs, but Dreckige Namen strikes me as more derivative than inspired. 

Berlin:  MC Fitti - Fitti mit'm Bart
You can't live in Berlin these days without passing by a poster for MC Fitti every few feet.  He certainly is the flavor of the moment here.  But what's behind that?  Well, I'm not a rap historian, but Fitti mit'm Bart seems like very very old school rap to me.  In other words, like Charly Bravo, MC Fitti seems to be digging back into the 1980s for his inspiration for his Bundesvision entry.  Indeed, listening to much of MC Fitti's other tracks, you get a real rap/disco hybrid.  Okay for a club setting, but I'm not convinced that Fitti mit'm Bart will have much of an impact at Bundesvision.

Brandenburg:  Keule - Ja genau!
Sigh - - - okay, I realize that I'm repeating myself.  And maybe it's because enough time has passed that the 1980s are trendy again (God help us!).  But listening to Ja genau! I am reminded of nothing so much as another German band, Trio's 1980 hit Da Da Da.  Granted, I loved that song, and I kind of enjoy Ja genau!  Is Germany ready for the 1980s again?  We certainly have plenty of opportunities this year to find out.

Bremen:  De fofftig Penns - Löppt
I will admit to a guilty pleasure when I listen to Löppt.  It is rap in the Beastie Boys sense (like much German rap since, well, forever).  But this track combines this familiar sound with a hard industrial accordion like nothing else you're ever likely to hear on Bundesvision.  It is the kind of hook that I think is lacking from other German rap acts that are all over the place these days.  Yeah, it's gimmicky, and for that it might very well suffer with the Bundesvision voters.  But that's okay.  I'll just enjoy them in my dark room alone.

Hamburg:  Johannes Oerding - Nichts geht mehr 
It was only a matter of time.  So here we are at the power ballad portion of the Bundesvision program.  As far as the genre goes, this isn't bad.  My 7-year-old daughter likes it, and she generally has her finger on the pulse of what is popular these days.  So, despite my general ambivalence toward the form, I figure that Nichts geht mehr will probably do alright.

Hesse:  Sing um dein Leben - Unter meiner Haut 
Okay, sometimes I am forced to go against my personal taste to opine that a song that I'm not personally fond of will probably do quite well.  Unter meiner Haut is one of those songs.  A techno ballad with just enough of a beat and just enough autotune to give it that "modern" sound, and with a pedigree including producer Xavier Naidoo (who won last year's Bundesvision Song Contest), musical collective Sing um dein Leben should do pretty well this year.  Note for the video though, I've been known to wear eye makeup in my time, but dude, it's a little excessive!

Lower Saxony:  Bosse - So oder so 
When I first saw the video for So oder so a few weeks ago, it just made me feel happy.  Those who know me will know that this is a trickier task than it would first appear considering my typically manic outward mien.  And seeing as I have never been a huge fan of Bosse over the years, I did not approach his entry in this year's Bundesvision Song Contest with all that much anticipation.  But this peppy little number is actually pretty nice.  Will it win this year?  Who knows?  But I'll probably put it somewhere in my 2013 iPod playlist.

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern:  Guaia Guaia - Terrorist 
Every year, there is usually one or two Bundesvision entries that are a pleasant surprise.  Multi-instrumental duo Guaia Guaia wears its counter-culture street cred on its sleeve, and Terrorist is a raw, no-holds-barred assault on the otherwise musically orthodox slate of contestants.  I have no doubt that Terrorist will score terribly with the Bundesvision voters.  But I will be first in line to buy their album, assuming I can get my hands on it.

North Rhine-Westphalia:  Pohlmann - Atmen
Okay. . . Another case of a song that I really don't like, that will probably nevertheless do quite well.  In 2007, Pohlmann came 5th in the Bundesvision Song Contest with Mädchen und Rabauken.  But frankly, I thought that was a vastly superior song.  Atmen is pretty basic power pop kind of stuff, and I have no doubt that middle-aged office workers across Germany are already singing along to it on the easy listening stations.  Not really my thing.  But then again, I liked Guaia Guaia, so there you go.

Rhineland-Palatinate:  Mega! Mega! - Strobo
Here we are, on the "R"s, and we finally hit the first alt-rock band of Bundesvision 2013.  Starting out with a touch of Devo, and descending into a rollicking guitar fueled rock song, it is hard to find fault with Strobo's approach.  At least it stands out from the rest of the entries this year.  But. . . between you and me, I find it a little soulless.  Yeah, it tries to rock, and it tries to be edgy.  But in the end, it just seems to be trying too hard.

Saarland:  DCVDNS - Eigentlich wollte Nate Dogg die Hook singen 
Does Bundesvision really need another rap act?  Well, I guess it all depends on whether they are actually any good.  DCVDNS is actually a pleasant surprise.  Their music is nothing to write home about, but their lyrical patterns are complex enough to make Eigentlich wollte Nate Dogg die Hook singen worth listening to.  Not worth it enough for them to win, but worth it enough to maybe try to find some of their other tracks.

Saxony:  The Toten Crackhuren im Kofferraum - Ich brauch' keine Wohnung 
Did I say something earlier about 1980s retro music at Bundesvision 2013?  With a name like The Toten Crackhuren im Kofferraum, I really wanted to like this band.  And while Ich brauch' keine Wohnung is a pleasant enough little ear worm of a song,  it is really more of a novelty act than a serious competitor.  Expect this song to disappear as quickly as it appeared.

Saxony-Anhalt:  Adolar - Halleluja 
I will admit to feeling a little burnt out by the middle of the "S"s.  Then, a song pops up that sounds an awful like one of my old German favorites:  Schrottgrenze.  It's a very 1990s flavored alternative rock anthem (which is an improvement over all of the other 1980s flavored stuff heard earlier).  But again, like Mega! Mega!, it is alt rock that seems more about attitude than musical substance.  That's not necessarily a killer in something like the Bundesvision Song Contest.  But if you're not singing power ballads or rapping, it might as well be.

Schleswig-Holstein:  Luna Simao - Es geht bis zu den Wolken
Don't tell my wife, but I'm in love.  Who would have thought that such a soulful reggae singer could come from a state on the Danish border?  Well, I'm now a believer.  I have spent the past few days of my life listening to, thinking about, and writing about this year's Bundesvision Song Contest entries, and frankly, up to this point, I have been somewhat less than impressed.  To be honest, overall, the pickings this year are pretty slim.  Then I find Luna Simao, and my faith is restored.  If Es geht bis zu den Wolken doesn't win this year, then God is dead.  There, I've said it. 

Thuringia:  Hannes Kinder & Band - Deja vu
Oh, thank God I've gotten all the way to the end.  And that feeling of relief is only reinforced by Deja vu.   Okay, it's a pleasant enough synth-pop tune, vaguely reminiscent of a slightly blander version of Jens Friebe.  But please, why can't anybody give me a song that speeds up my pulse?  Or that breaks boundaries?  Or that makes me think?  Yes, I know I'm being unfair to Hannes Kinder, because he and his band come from a state that starts with a "T" instead of a "B" (or even an "H").  But all the same, there is enough sonic wallpaper out there already.  Do we really need more?