New Music for You and for Me.

So, Israel has tightened its grip and intensified its attacks on Gaza. A new ground offensive has been under way for a few days now and the likelihood of a peaceful two-state solution to the most consequential conflict in the world is becoming less and less likely. Obama’s inauguration day is less than two weeks away and I know my eyes will be glued to the TV. And my beloved Toronto Raptors are showing strong signs of improvement with two big wins against quality clubs but need to string together a 5, 6, or 7 game winning streak to really get the post-season back into their crosshairs.

But I digress.

Today, I want to mention a few albums that I have recently started listening to and that I would like to recommend. I don’t usually write about music but after recently discovering some new albums and artists, I wanted to share some with you.

Kanye West – 808s and Heartbreaks

I’ve always liked Kanye. When he first came on the scene, I found him to be a fresh voice that broke the monotony of mainstream rap at the time. He was a welcome respite from all the regular “bling-bling”, “I got shot 8 times”, “my bitch is hotter than your bitch” fare. You could tell by listening to his lyrics that he was intelligent, insightful, and that he had something to say. With this new album, he has mellowed out substantially, ditched the rap verses for singing, and has moved toward a more R ‘n’ B sound. It takes a few listens to really appreciate the production of Kanye’s beats but they are undoubtedly very unique, perhaps even groundbreaking. At least I had never heard anything in rap music like the drums on the chorus of this song:

Kate Nash – Made of Bricks

This is an album that sounds like a cross between Rilo Kiley and Amy Winehouse. With her clearly British accent coupled with her sometimes aggressive lyrics, the cute Londoner pulls off an album where the songs are catchy yet meaningful. Couple this with my penchant for female singers and I was hooked. Here is a good example:

K’Naan – The Dusty Foot Philosopher

Speaking of rap music with good lyrics, this is a great example. I have a total love/hate relationship with rap and the deciding factor is and will always be the lyrics. This makes sense because mostly, the song is the lyrics in rap, with the beat often acting merely as a metronome of sorts. Put it this way: for me, a bad rap song will always have bad lyrics but good ones with bad beats can exist. Anyway, K’Naan is a highly talented rapper. He grew up in Somalia but has spent most of his formative years in Toronto. Growing up in Somalia clearly has had a large influence on his lyrics and his general message. This leads to very interesting and passionate rhyming both about his move to the First World and his early years in the Third. Here is a good sample:

Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

This American indie rock outfit has a fun, bouncy, and non-pretentious sound to them. I believe that they would be considered “hip”, whatever that means nowadays, so don’t be surprised to hear them at your local hipster haunt. In any case, a solid album from the New Yorkers. Wonderful album to clean to! Here’s a sample:

So there are a few albums that I’ve been jiving to recently. Others might include the new Beck as well the new Tryo. Tryo are a French quartet whose sound is hard to pin down, but there are strong folk rock and reggae influences going on. They are a great group with poetic and socially conscious lyrics. I’ll leave you with their new video:

Long live tunes! A la prochaine!


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