Cold War Kids

I stumbled across Cold War Kids while at the office yesterday. Once the music kicked in one of my fellow desk jockeys exclaimed, “Turbo Indie!” Indeed. With their minimal jangles of guitar, sparse percussion and fluttering Buckley-esque vocals, Cold War Kids are about as “indie”-sounding as you can get. The other offerings on their myspace page recall the “freak” folk-ishness of Devendra Banhart and friends. Either way, Cold War Kids come close to reaching that primal place where music originates in all of us.

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Back it up about 10 years when Sam, Jon and I were all being paid for what we do now for free, a young man by the name of Matt Mahaffey was also, theoretically, getting paid for what he now does for free. His collage of organic and digital instrumentation, pop and hip-hop sensibilities, and his playful use of harmonic and discordant elements won us over immediately. Self was an essential artist in our soundtrack of those days at Acme. With Jon’s usual sarcasm, he remembers this time as “misty watercolor memories.” It took a loyal 3hive reader (thanks Josh!) to bring us full circle, back to Self. While offers a veritable smorgasbord of free tunes, here’s a brief sampler of his classic and newest works. “KiDdies” was a literal hit on my nightly radio show in Salt Lake City and a great Halloween track, “So Low” and “Cannon” the singles from Self’s first album. The rest are from his most current album, this year’s Porno, Mint & Grime.

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Sound Directions

An extra treat for you today: Madlib keeping the funk alive with a full crew of session musicians. Members of The Dap Kings, Antibalas, and Breakestra, all pitch in and bring breakbeats to old-school jazz greats Oliver Sain, and J.J. Johnson. Snag the tracks while you can, Stones Throw links are usually good for a limited time. Heads up via: Enemy of the Crate

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A Hasidic reggae sensation. It sounds like a sitcom setup that inevitably ends in “Now I’ve really seen it all!” And I’ll admit that when I saw Matisyahu for the first time, the gangly visage in a black suit and hat and traditional beard, combined with a voice perfectly trained for staccato wordplay, was as disorienting as Michael Bolton bustin’ out with a rhyme that would make Jay-Z blush. Yet despite being the last guy you’d expect to find himself in a waka-waka rhythm, Matisyahu comes legit with lyrics often steeped in religious imagery which, like Bob Marley’s Rastafarianism or even Bono’s Catholicism, never cross over into dogma. It’s in those lyrics that Matisyahu’s conceit comes into focus: Zion, Babylon, salvation, temples, princes and kings — whether Jamaica or Jerusalem, reggae at its core is rebel music for true believers. Matisyahu is true, and he’s bound to make some new believers of his own.

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Truckstop Honeymoon

It seems like an appropriate time to post some New Orleans levee-billy — courtesy of Mike West and Katie Euliss of Arabi, LA — with sincere hopes that Truckstop Honeymoon will still be making these wonderful sounds. Bluegrass, southern rock, country, Anglo-folk all contribute the background to the wonderful narratives presented by this husband and wife crew. Check out “Capitol Hill” and “Walk of Shame” to get a sense of the political and cultural landscape, then hit their website to buy the two Truckstop Honeymoon albums.

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Lewis Taylor

Apologies in advance: Today’s post may be yesterday’s news and I may just be late to the Lewis Taylor party. Sorry, it’s just a bit of a shock to find something so great that I overlooked for so long. But enough about this blogger’s insecurities. Lewis Taylor is a British soul singer/multi-instrumentalist with a voice like warm butterscotch and an ear for music like no soul you’ve ever heard. Before you conjure images of Joss Stone or Jamiroquai, rest assured that Lewis Taylor is for real – he’s not simply playing his parents’ vinyl collection, he’s taking soul to places it hasn’t been before. But, it doesn’t hurt that he hits with velvet gloves like Marvin Gaye and arranges with the kaleidoscope mind of Prince. (He also goes his own way under the radar like the inimitable Joe Henry – not a soul man, but a darn fine musician you should seek out.) As you browse through these highlights, you’ll hear some guitar and crooning that could be Ben Harper on a rainy day, some space-jazz this side of Miles Davis fusion, and even a few moments that are more electronically out there (Radiohead’s name pops up often in other people’s Taylor descriptions, and Kruder + Dorfmeister offer a remix here). Or, you’ll hear all of the above in the same track. And, if you haven’t already fallen, you’ll love it all.

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Kid Koala

The first time I saw Kid Koala spin was at the Wetlands in NYC at a Ninja Tune night some years back. He plowed through a crate of novelty records and hip-hop classics with the glee (and haste) of a two year old, mouthing the words to every last cut and leaving a pile of used vinyl on the floor. The first time I saw Kid Koala perform was at the El Rey in Los Angeles a couple years later, when I saw him recreate his turntable masterpiece “Drunk Trumpet” on stage. He used the pitch control slider to extract different notes from a single horn part on a jazz record as our collective jaws hit the floor. “Skanky Panky” is a similar experience, in that it needs to be seen and heard. Fortunately for all who haven’t had the pleasure, you can do just that on his CD/DVD, Live at the Short Attention Span Theater.

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Antony and the Johnsons

One of the nice things about a new job (note to self: update bio page) is all the new music you get to hear through your new co-workers. This week, as part of New Music Tuesdays, Andrew brought in Antony and the Johnsons’ exquisite I Am a Bird Now. Antony has been tagged with the same “freak folk” moniker as his pal Devendra Banhart, though I’d call it the transexual blues and add that he sounds more like Nina Simone than Woody Guthrie.

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King Apparatus

It’s a perfect time to post the pleasant early-’90s ska-pop of Toronto’s King Apparatus. For the past few days, we’ve been lounging on the lovely shore of Lake Huron, pushing my daughter and her cousins around in the kayak and threatening to send them across the lake to Canada if they didn’t eat their hot dog buns. Assuming we ever did manage to send the kids that far in the boat, just like “Michael and Anne” we’d have to come up with a seriously good story for the cops.

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The Epoxies

Some of our more avid readers may have noticed we were late in posting our last several entries. We had been experiencing those fabled technical difficulties, but our pro MT man, SeÒor Blurb, set us straight. You can continue to expect quality, free, and legal music from us daily. While Jon was tinkering on 3hive’s back end last night, I was busy pogo-ing to the Epoxies. Now this is Neu-Wave: leave your cooler-than-thou posturing at home and bring on old fashioned, danceable fun.

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