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Currently Jamming to – Theophilus London

30 Mar

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Nuri posted a round-up of her favorite artists from 2010 early this year and she mentioned Theophilus London as someone to look out for. Considering this is the same lady who brought the phenomenal Esthero into my life, I gave him a chance. I certainly don’t regret it.

His most recent mixtape, “I Want You”, has him covering the songs of other artists such as Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. While he hails from Brooklyn, the elements of the city he’s named for are seen in his music, which blends seamlessly with the classic soul beats and electronica influences. I’m not usually the type to listen to a CD from beginning to end, and definitely not more than once, but this mixtape is the exception. Last.fm lists similar artists as The Cool Kids, Jay Electronica, Wale (though I don’t really see that one), and Kidz in the Hall. If you’re a fan of any of those artists, definitely check him out.

His newest album, Lovers’ Holiday, is out now on iTunes and you can download his mixtapes for free. If you still want more, you can also check out his official website or his blog.

What are you currently listening to? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo, Tara

Music Feature – Esperanza Spalding

4 Oct

Esperanza Spalding, aside from having an amazing afro, is a jazz musician from Portland, Oregon, and my latest girl-crush. While she’s reached some exposure in the jazz world (and beyond), I still think that she is sorely under-exposed.

More about her, via her official website:

If “esperanza” is the Spanish word for hope, then bassist, vocalist and composer Esperanza Spalding could not have been given a more fitting name at birth. Blessed with uncanny instrumental chops, a multi-lingual voice that is part angel and part siren, and a natural beauty that borders on the hypnotic, the 25-year-old prodigy-turned-pro might well be the hope for the future of jazz and instrumental music.

If “esperanza” is the Spanish word for hope, then bassist, vocalist and composer Esperanza Spalding could not have been given a more fitting name at birth. Blessed with uncanny instrumental chops, a multi-lingual voice that is part angel and part siren, and a natural beauty that borders on the hypnotic, the 25-year-old prodigy-turned-pro might well be the hope for the future of jazz and instrumental music.

I have recently had the pleasure of seeing Esperanza Spalding perform – and she is amazing. Absolutely amazing. This talented bassist (although she plays other instruments too) is only twenty-five (!) and has performed for the likes of President Barack Obama at his Nobel Prize Ceremony.

Even though I went to her concert at the Byham Theater kind of tired – it had been a long day, alright?? – I was captivated by her soulful performance and the sheer passion she exuded. Every note seemed to light her on fire and the radiant smile on her face was a testament to how much she loved music. Even when she paused her playing, she would close her eyes and hum along to her band, the Chamber Music Society. And while she writes her own music, it amazed me how she was able to play intricate musical compositions while singing along. Take it from a former piano player: that is NOT easy. I became an instant fan.

For more information on Esperanza Spalding, check out her official website. To preview more of her music, listen to the player on her website or her fan station on last.fm.

If you have any music you’d like me to check out, leave me a comment or send me an email! (Contact info in the about me page)

xoxo,

Tara

Music Video – VV Brown: Shark in the Water

26 Aug

When I found out that one of my favorite artists, VV Brown – who I’ve featured on this blog before in my first ever music feature – had released a new music video, I knew I had to post it here. This video was done in collaboration with Teen Nick and Degrassi (who here watched/watches Degrassi? Don’t be ashamed!)

As usual, VV Brown looks fly, fresh and fierce in this carnival motif (speaking of carnivals, I just mentioned the one I visited in my last Slowed Down Sunday post!)

Wikipedia says:

The song is a metaphorical record about anxiety, and was inspired by Brown’s experience with infidelity by a past boyfriend who liked to stalk her in his free time. The song is her first single to get high airplay on U.S. music channels and radio (neither “Leave!” or “Crying Blood” were able to achieve this). The song was also used as a promo for the summer run of the tenth season of Degrassi (previously titled Degrassi: The Next Generation).

Another random fact: The song was also re-recorded in the Simlish language of The Sims and is featured in The Sims 3: Ambitions. Huh. I can’t wait to hear that remake.

To keep the VV Brown-Degrassi connection going, here’s a bonus video of her covering “Best I Ever Had” by Drake, a Degrassi alum:

Are there any music videos that you’ve been enjoying lately? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo, Tara

Music Video: California Gurls by Katy Perry

14 Jul

This is seriously one of the cutest videos I’ve seen in a while. It combines many of my favorite things – Candyland, Snoop Dogg and pastel wigs. Cotton candy clouds and lavender hair? LOVE. If it had only included unicorns and mouse ears, I would have given it the title of video of the year, hands down. After I buy a lilac afro wig, of course.

I’m actually not a huge fan of the song – it begins to grate once it’s been stuck in your head for a few hours – but I had to get the video on my iPod. A perfect example of how my sister and I are completely different, once I told her how much I enjoyed it, her first reaction was: “I’m going to think it’s overdone, tacky and obnoxious, aren’t I?” Much like Times Square, Las Vegas and Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, she was proven right and we were at odds over our taste levels (or lack thereof) once again.

Her multicultural backup dancers are cute too, as are her various costumes and props. (Other than the girl wrapped in cellophane – that was a bit creepy.)

Here are a few more images I really liked from the video:

All photos from I ♥ Katy Perry on Tumblr.

What do you think about the video? Are there any you’ve been into lately? Let me know in the comments.

xoxo, Tara

Icon: Michael Jackson

5 Jul

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On June 25th, 2009, the world lost a legend.

It’s pretty amazing how fast time flies, isn’t it? I can hardly believe it’s been a year already. On the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death, I intentionally avoided the many tweets, facebook statuses and blog posts paying heartfelt tribute to the King of Pop. When television stations aired his videos in a constant loop, I changed the channel. If they came on the radio, I switched the station.

Honestly? It was much too upsetting even to listen to.

To say that I was a fan of Michael Jackson is a supreme understatement. I was literally raised with his music – it’s been the soundtrack of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve dressed as Michael for Halloween (circa Jackson 5), learned the moves to both Beat It and Thriller, secretly kept my parents’ original vinyl copies of Thriller and Off the Wall and even managed to try my hand at the Moonwalker video game.

When I heard about his death, I was at work. My sister sent me a text message. I remember my heart skipping a beat and everything slowed to a standstill. The last I had heard about MJ, he was talking about his massive comeback, the This Is It tour (I would have loved to see it – especially after that amazing movie) it shocked me. He seemed so frail but I also never considered that his health was in such a precarious state. He seemed mythic, in the truest sense – for some reason, I never expected him to die.

While I was glad, somewhat, that the public seemed to realize his legendary status, it was bittersweet to realize that he only regained the respect that he deserved after a sudden and tragic death.

While I mourn the loss of a musical genius, I also mourn the loss of a life – one that endured pain and disrespect until the end. I mourn for the young child who was denied a life due to a vicious father, and the man who was denied a private life due to our celebrity obsessed culture that I’ll admit, I feed into every now and again.

I hope he is at peace, although he leaves family and millions of heartbroken fans in his wake.

One thing that does give me comfort is his enduring legacy – his charity, his spirit and probably most famously, his music. His albums, from beginning to end, will be a great listen. I look forward to them becoming the soundtrack to the lives of many others as the years go by.

I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite Michael song, even if you narrowed it down to his solo work and excluded the Jacksons and Jackson 5. I would probably say Human Nature, or maybe Rock With You, or possibly Off The Wall. Honestly, there are too many to decide – just thinking of those three made other classics come to mind, like Beat It, Lady in my Life and many, many others. But for any hardcore MJ fan, I highly suggest the excellent mixtape by DJ Jazzy Jeff, He’s the King and I’m the DJ. It highlights his greatest hits, but also more obscure (at least to me) classics that I have fallen in love with, like Never Can Say Goodbye and Heartbreak Hotel.

RIP, Michael. You will be missed.

xoxo, Tara

Music Video – Kelis: 4th of July (Fireworks)

16 Jun

The first music video from Kelis’ album Flesh Tone, Acapella, set a very high bar with costuming, artistry and overall “wow” factor. I was mesmerized from beginning to end and I fully expected her second video on this album for 4th of July (Fireworks) – which, coincidentally, is my second favorite song on Flesh Tone – to hit some sort of sophomore slump. There is no way, I reasoned, that this video could live up to Acapella.

While I am not as blown away this time around, I can certainly say it lives up to its predecessor. She revisits desert theme from Acapella, as well as the tribal motif that made use of ornate headdresses. As in Acapella, Kelis can also be found in a contemporary club scene, this time in a darkened hall with neon magenta strobe lights and a venue that eventually (spoiler alert!) goes up in flames.

Of course, the costuming is never lacking – with every scene change, Kelis is dressed in a notable, eye-grabbing outfit. Then again, I firmly believe that everything is better with sequins and glitter, so your mileage may vary.

Are there any music videos that you’ve been really into lately? Let me know in the comments.

xoxo, Tara

ps – If you like what you read here (and I hope you do!), don’t forget to nominate me for a Black Weblog Award. For more info, click here!

Music Feature – Ebony Bones!

2 Jun

(In case you were wondering, yes, the exclamation mark is mandatory.)

If you haven’t noticed, I usually start these posts with a video of some sort, showcasing a song by the artist that I particularly enjoy. In this case, I started with an image – because if you couldn’t tell, this lady’s look is utterly fantastic. From the large fabric chains around her wrists and neck to her Josephine Baker inspired skirt, she is truly a sight to behold. (And a prime candidate for super-fangirling.) Hailing from London, England, this talented lady is a musician, singer-songwriter and actress.

Ebony Thomas – also known as Ebony Bones! – is the kind of artist I tend to react strongly to – you can feel the heart and emotion in her music and it certainly suits her image – it has a colorful, eclectic, almost raw vibe about it. By her description, she serves up a “post punk, tropical, melodramatic pop” sound. She tends to use very topical subjects, as evidenced by her song “We Know All About U”, which depicts a Orwellian London. As you go through her fantastic journey, you can feel her carefully constructed musical path even through the eclectic sounds and vocals.

Here is more information on her, via her Wikipedia page:

A self-taught musician performing under the stage name Ebony Bones! in 2007, she anonymously uploaded music onto a blank myspace page, writing, producing, her own material and playing her own instruments.

Noted for her sense of fashion, and antics during live shows, Ebony Bones! performed her first tour supporting The Slits and performed live for Massive Attack’s Meltdown (festival) at The Royal Festival Hall, appearing at the 2007 Glastonbury Festival and again in 2008 headlined by Jay-Z.

So what is she up to now? She released her debut album, Bone of My Bones in 2009 and it is available in music retailers worldwide. She is working on a follow-up album, entitled Blood is the New Black. Reportedly, she is recording this album in Mumbai, with the Symphony Orchestra of India, which will in turn be documented in a film featuring live concert footage. She also was the driving force behind her music video The Muzik, which features 30 different directors from across the globe, armed with only a digi-cam or camera phone.

When asked about her inspiration for her debut album Bone of My Bones, she had this to say:

‘‘Sometimes the best way to get a message across
is through comedy and color,’’ says EBONY BONES!,
whose riotous punk stage act is all the proof one needs.
‘‘You don’t have to be glossy or shiny to be creative..’

To learn more about Ebony Bones!, visit her Official Myspace Homepage.

Thoughts? Or are there any artists that you can’t stop listening to? Let me know in the comments!

ps – Don’t forget to nominate me for Best Teen Blog at the Black Weblog Awards (if you haven’t already). Just click that shiny yellow button. 😉

xoxo,

Tara