Legend has it Vex Ruffin is the only artist Peanut Butter Wolf signed to his Stones Throw label on the merits of an unsolicited demo tape. PBW apparently liked the drawing on the cover and decided to check it out. The untrained punk musician and UPS driver thought his friends were goofin’ on him when he got the phone call.
With that kind of an origin story, you owe it to yourself to give Vex Ruffin a listen. What you’ll hear is really hard to pin down. Vex’s detached vocals recall Beck’s early years. Those wicked minimalist basslines could be outtakes from a previously unreleased Can (or Stones Roses?) record. The eerie, reverb-drenched synths and sounds smack of Cabaret Voltaire’s industrial funk. And that’s just side one of his latest album, Conveyor.
All told, Vex Ruffin is fun to listen to and hard to label. What do you expect from someone who says his favorite artists in high school were The Cure and DMX?
Sneaks is the stage name of Washington, D.C.’s Eva Moolchan. On her latest, It’s a Myth, she sticks with her post-punk recipe of stripped-down jams – comprised of a delicious groove and bizarro Double Dutch rhymes – each with an understated swagger that will leave you craving more.
[Buy It’s a Myth on vinyl in the 3hive Co-op Shop, at a nice “friends of 3hive” price, while supplies last.]
It all started with hearing Thundercat’s ‘Friend Zone’ for the first time. I immediately started thinking about what other songs would go with it in a mix – and it grew from there – 25 tracks of toe tapping groove. Thanks for inspiring this mix, Thundercat!
1. Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground (London, 1974)
2. Thundercat – Friend Zone
3. Al Green – Because
4. Natural Child – Benny’s Here
5. Once And Future Band – Rolando
6. BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – Ray Gun (feat. DOOM)
7. Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings – Tell Me
8. Carla Thomas – Let Me Be Good To You
9. Lazy Salon – Sea Isle Ice
10. RUMTUM – Lost Ark
11. Gap Dream – Shine Your Light
12. Lazy Knuckles – Polygot
13. Gonjasufi – Ancestors
14. Adrian Younge – La Ballade
15. Blood Orange – Best To You
16. Bad Juju – Up In The Lab
17. Flying Lotus – Zodiac Shit
18. The Meters – You’ve Got To Change (You Got To Reform)
19. Booker T. & The M.G.’s – Chicken Pox
20. The Mar-Keys – Last Night
21. The Courtneys – Mars Attacks (Bobby Draino Remix)
22. Moderat – Reminder
23. Lasso – FkdLtd
24. Madvillain – Heat Niner
25. Dibia$e – Just The Way
Stephen Bruner a/k/a Thundercat is a musical omnivore. In interviews he’ll cite Manhattan Transfer, Mahavishnu Orchestra, John Coltrane, and video game music as influences – all in the same sentence. He’s played with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Suicidal Tendencies. And he’s already appeared on as many albums as he years old (33!). Such a broad palette can be a blessing or a curse. Fortunately, Thundercat has managed to channel his wandering mind and expansive talent into another uniquely cohesive – and funky – package with his latest, Drunk.
Whether the topic matter is mortality, race relations, or how freakin’ cool Tokyo or his pet cat is, Thundercat brings a levity and sincerity to the party that would be hard for most people to balance. If I told you he accomplishes this with a 6-string bass and entrancing falsetto as his primary weapons, it’d be even harder to believe.
Drunk is tight, so tight, almost efficient: 22 joints and not one clocks over 4 minutes long. In contrast to Thundercat’s live shows, where songs gets blown out into transcendent (sometimes frenetic) jam sessions, each studio track packs a concentrated punch. “Bus in the Streets” argues for unplugging from technology over a snappy Steely Dan-esque synth line. “Walk on By” is a yearning R&B burner with Kendrick Lamar guesting with a potent dose of street poetry. “Them Changes” – a bringback from his 2015 EP – showcases the funkiest bassline this side of Larry Graham. Then there’s the two Big Singles: “Show You the Way” featuring Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins, with no irony whatsoever, and “Friend Zone” which lit the place up when I saw Thundercat perform it a couple weeks back and has already reserved a spot on most Best of 2017 lists.
Speaking of his live show, it was a melting pot of jazzbos, hip-hop heads, skaters, Pitchfork disciples, and drum circle types – a testament to Thundercat’s broad appeal. You can love him for his virtuosity, his groove, his unabashed nerdiness… or maybe you’ll find some other reason. I’ll leave that to you and Thundercat.
I’ve been a fan of Tommy Guerrero since I was 13 years old, 1987 – the year I picked up on skateboarding. The Bones Brigade were in their prime and Guerrero was my favorite skateboarder. During that year my friends and I watched The Search For Animal Chin at least 100 times. His flaming dagger deck was one of my very first rides.
Flash forward to 2004 when I was reintroduced to Tommy Guerrero as a musician on this very site in a post by site founder Sean. Now, 12 years later Tommy is still at it with his new band BLKTOP PROJECT featuring Josh Lippi and fellow skaters Ray Barbee, Chuck Treece and Matt Rodriguez.
Recorded live over two days, their new album, Concrete Jungle is a loose, grooved-out, rocker of a record with a great jam session feel to it. Check the stream of “A New Line” below for a taste. It’s a real rump shaker.
Concrete Jungle is out today through Guerrero’s own Too Good records and available to buy from his Bandcamp page.
Brooklyn’s Woods are back with their outstanding 9th LP, City Sun Eater in the River of Light. Taking the best parts of almost every genre of music out there and adding it their already wonky, folk-psych sound, Woods have created a groove-driven (dare I call it “groove-psych”), psychedelic rock masterpiece.
Check out the head bobbing beat of “Can’t See At All” (below) for a mere sampling of how cool this album is.
City Sun Eater… is out now and available on whatever media suits your fancy from WOODSIST Records – I highly, highly recommend it.
Woods – Can’t See At All from City Sun Eater in the River of Light (2016)
London-based multi-instrumentalist/producer Shawn Lee and Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter AM have collaborated again to release their stellar third release Outlines. Outlines is a groovetastic blend of toe tapping, head bobbing, synth-heavy pop and funk. Get a taste of their grooviness below in the stream of album opener “Persuasion”.
Outlines is available to buy in all formats from their Bandcamp page. It’s a good one.
Taking the best parts from the 70’s era arena rock, glam and funk, and combing it into some kind of garage-pop-electro-space-funk hodgepodge, Danny James has created one of the most sonically pleasing albums that I have heard in quite some time.
I’m not exactly sure when Pear was officially released. Danny James’ Bandcamp page shows 2012, but I know that Burger Records just released this on vinyl, cassette and CD last week. Regardless it’s a solid album, and by far one of the best releases of 2015 or 2012.
Give opening track “Tight Lipped” (below) a spin, then get yourself over to Burger and snag a copy before they are all gone.
Danny James Etc. – Tight Lipped from Pear (2015)
My first introduction to Curtis Harding’s soul stylings was his cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Here She Comes Now”, from Burger Records’ tribute cassette to White Light/White Heat. His take on the VU classic left me wanting for more. That want is over as Harding just released his debut LP, Soul Power, with Burger Records. It’s 12 songs of funk-soul-garage-pop goodness will keep you spinning the album over and over again.
Check out the funk-fueled, toe-tapper “Keep On Shining” (below) his first single from the LP. Soul Power is out now, and available on vinyl (highly recommended) and cassette from Burger Records.
Curtis Harding – Keep On Shining from Soul Power (2014)
After the dissolution of his previous band, Jookabox, Indianapolis’ own DMA (aka David “Moose” Adamson) dashed off an album of self-described “crust funk” tracks that mostly defied listening. I say “mostly” because DREM BEB (as in “Dream Babe”) yielded “Riding Holiday”, an altered state take on the classic rock highway jam that wormed its way into my ear last summer with its hypnotic beat and headstrong chorus.
Now DMA is back with a follow-up called The Boardwalk which is far more gentle and refined in its approach. Waves of warped melodies wash over dubby pulses, beats, and clicks. Every so often DMA’s deadpan vocals wander through the soundscape, soaked in reverb, serving as yet another layer of instrumentation. Kind of like listening to Orbital after taking a handful of Sudafed.
DREM BEB was released as a limited-edition cassette and it appears that The Boardwalk is only available for streaming on Bandcamp. Not the most user-friendly distribution strategy, maybe it’s all part of the mystique.
Riding Holiday from DREM BEB (2011)