Archive | September, 2013

The Music of GTA 5

25 Sep

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the beauty of the Grand Theft Auto soundtracks. Now that a little game called GTA 5 has been released, it seems like a good time to analyse the music of Rockstar’s latest masterpiece.

Image

(A quick side note first – rather annoyingly, the in-game radio stations often get obscured by screeching tires and fleeing pedestrians as you’re driving. Feel free to adjust the volume for the radio stations in the Settings menu to make sure you can always hear them.)

West Coast hip hop classics are well represented in the tracks, as a throwback to San Andreas. Dr Dre’s “The Next Episode” is the first track you hear as you begin the game. Most of the songs on here veer towards the lighter side of G-Funk spectrum, being good songs to cruise along the highways to rather than gang anthems. Dr Dre’s associates like Snoop Dogg and NWA are also included several times. The station is even hosted by DJ Pooh, a real life producer who’s worked with many of the artists himself.

Contemporary hip hop is also out in force. The golden child of LA’s real life rap scene, Kendrick Lamar, is featured on not one but three songs, including Jay Rock’s great “Hood Gone Love It”, which was used to soundtrack Franklin’s trailer. There are also tracks by up-and-coming stars A$AP Rocky and Tyler the Creator.

Los Santos Rock Radio plays a constant stream of classic rock and pop from the 70’s and 80’s, including my favourite song from the game so far, “Radio Gaga” by Queen. This ode to the golden age of radio works brilliantly in a game where you will spend so much of your time listening to it. It also shows the game’s sense of fun, compared to the dour, serious GTA IV. You can also hear the likes of Stevie Nicks, Elton John and Phil Collins on this station.

As always, Rockstar takes pleasure in placing obscure genres and artists in its games. For example, Radio Mirror Parks plays non-stop ‘indietronica’, while Soulwax FM specialises in ‘fidget house’. Thanks to the games improved-radio system (just hold down a button to select the station and see what song’s playing), you’ll always know what you’re listening to, so you can find it again later.

If like me you loved San Andreas’s country station, K Rose, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s back in the form of Rebel Radio. I’ve not had much time to listen to it as you can only get it when out in the country, however I predict there will probably be some hidden gems on it, and also some intentionally terrible ones.

With 240 licensed songs, the entire soundtrack would take you days to listen to even without all the exciting things happening in Los Santos. If you somehow get bored of this wealth of music, there are even two hilarious talk radio stations to listen to. All of this adds up to one of the richest gaming experiences ever. If I’ve missed out your favourite song (which I probably have), share it below. Hey, it’s a free excuse to play more GTA!

Teling Buffalo Tales in Amsterdam

24 Sep

Buffalo-Tales

Wes Carr is getting back to his folk roots. After winning the sixth season of Australian Idol in 2008 and charting #2 in Australia with The Way The World Looks, his second album (first with a label), Carr started a new project that allowed him to focus his musical production on acoustic pastoral melodies and his singer/songwriter foundations. Making music under the moniker Buffalo Tales, Carr recently released his third studio album, Roadtrip Confessions, which takes listeners on a rich, bucolic journey of savory vocals and lulling rhythms.

Carr’s true strength as an artist is as a storyteller. Like a more effervescent Iron & Wine, Carr plugs through each song on Roadtrip Confessions, navigating listeners through woven personal tales. It is a joy to enter the musical world of Carr, and it should come to no surprise that he came upon the nickname Buffalo Tales, an image that evokes stories of idyllic plains.

The video for “Amsterdam,” the lead single off the album, is a reflection of Carr’s melodic candor; the song flows naturally and effectively. Injected with an acoustic rhythm much like a strummed Tallest Man on Earth piece, “Amsterdam” is carried with a rhythmic power and vocal vitality. The energy is refreshing. The harmonies give the piece an Indie/Folk quality and add to its strength.

Yes, this is a unique cover of Rihanna’s “Diamonds.” It is subdued and personal. In that sense it almost reminds me of the “Hey Ya” cover by Obadiah Parker, but Carr’s cover is carried with a quiet potency that is both emotional and sweet. Perhaps my favorite part of the cover is that Carr holds back. He can flat-out sing, but instead of overwhelming the cover, he remains tranquil and almost melancholic.

Check out more of Buffalo Tales – Website, Facebook, Twitter .

Last Chance for Sunshine Driving

19 Sep

Sunshine Driving

Summer officially ends on Sunday. I don’t know about you, but I intend on holding on for dear life. The thought of another New York winter is … well … cold and the antithesis of pleasant, sunny, and all those summery adjectives. What I need is some music to help me ward away the chill in the air and focus only on the chill of cold beer, warm sunshine, and a beach somewhere. I need some mental transportation music. Thankfully, I have Joe Moorhead.

Moorhead, an acoustic-guitar wielding, laid-back, tropical musician originally from Cleveland, Ohio – there is an ironic contradiction blatantly noticeable in that appositive – provides the summer grooves you need to keep the spirit of warm weather alive during cold months. His band is your quintessential college quartet, and they can be seen playing college venues and festivals throughout the United States (Tour Schedule).

All of the tracks, which can be heard on Moorhead’s website, can best be described as fun. The tracks, like Moorhead, are relaxed and comfortable. They are perfect for swinging on a hammock while enjoying the sweet heat radiating off the orange sand and … uh, yeah, sorry, back to my desk. It’s easy to get lost (in a good way) in the excellent tunes. Here is the first single off the new album Tides are Rising (released last month), “Sunshine Driving”

The piece starts with a toe-tapping blues riff that echoes a groovy Dave Matthews-like jam. Moorhead’s vocal is loose and easy. The hip verse turns into an island chorus. It’s a strange made-up adjective, I know. The best way I can describe it though is a melody concoction you are most likely to hear while on an Island. It’s an interesting juxtaposition with the blues guitar. Great piece.

AM – Arctic Monkeys Review

18 Sep

Image

Critically acclaimed debuts can often be a curse for a band. Plenty of bands have combusted under the pressure to repeat it – see the Stone Roses, the Klaxons, the Las and dozens others. However if there was ever a band that argued early success needn’t be a burden, it was the Arctic Monkeys, and AM is the conclusive proof.

As the title suggests, AM is stripped-down, back to basics, but the band have come so far in the last eight years it still sounds like nothing they’ve done before. It’s traditional rock but with a glossy veneer of hubris. Don’t mistake the anachronistic titles for dumbing down – this is just the band feeling comfortable in their own skin.

Gone is almost everything you might associate with their award-winning debut. The jangly indie guitar riffs have been replaced by muscular, R’n’B tinged tunes. The Sheffield quartets have truly embraced American sounds. This is mostly thanks to ‘R U Mine?’, a one-off song they released last year that the band liked so much they continued to mine the sonic space it had unearthed, and it now feels like an integral part of the album.

The social commentary that defined their first album has also mutated into richer lovelorn poetry. One of the highlights comes early in ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ as Alex wonders ‘if your heart’s still open and if so what time it shuts?’ It’s not tied to a specific place or time, but instead evokes many different shades of love, whether it’s drunk, desperate or just dumb.

In ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ Alex even adapts words from poet John Cooper Clarke. The fact they sound like his own shows off his strength not just as a lyricist but as a song writer.

There are almost too many highlights too mention. Album opener ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ sounds like ‘R U Mine’s’ evil twin, filled with alcohol-induced swagger, while ‘Why Do You Only Call Me When I’m High?’, is one of the funniest songs they’ve ever produced. ‘Number One Party Anthem’ is a huge misnomer; you could more imagine Alex crooning it in a smoky jazz bar. I’ve managed to get the end without mentioning the best song, ‘Abarbella’ with its flickering riffs and vivid desert poetry.

It’s impossible to retrap lightening in a bottle but Arctic Monkeys have managed to make something different and just as good. Purists who are still waiting for more stories about taxi ranks need not listen but everyone else is going to love AM. If Alex Turner has only recently grown into his role as a rockstar, this is the soundtrack to his new life.

Celebrate the Racoon Wedding

16 Sep

Racoon Dead on the Side of the Road

Add one more notch on Brantford, Ontario’s belt. The city is the birthplace of Wayne Gretzky and Phil Hartman, and it is where Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. It also houses the six members of the rising Indie/Rock band Racoon Wedding.  Racoon can be spelled with one C or two. I thought I’d obviate the spelling lesson.

Racoon Wedding is the music equivalent of what I would expect a raccoon wedding to be like: electric eccentricity, amicable drunkenness, poppy humor, and, most importantly, horn-fueled raccoon love. So, yeah, that odd comparison holds true for the sextet from telephone city.

Come tomorrow with the release of the new LP, Racoon Dead on the Side of the Road, the band will have successfully depicted the joy of raccoon passion and friendship (which the name of the band implies) and the harsh inevitability of death at the hand of a metal box traveling at speeds no raccoon can match. Who knew that they were a concept band?

All kidding aside, I’ve grown attached to the bluesy, Dr. Dog/Kay Kay and the Weathered Underground quirkiness and musical whimsicality of Racoon Wedding. With some bands (and I could feel this prior to watching the buddy/buddy bacchanal video below), you just know that friends are making music. And not like friends until some success presents itself and then “I’m going solo” becomes an overplayed comment. Friends who are friends who happen to make good music and have fun doing it. This comes through in the tunes, and it is one heck of a positive with Racoon Wedding.

The band is haphazardly touring throughout Ontario, but I do hope this post helps give them some more play in the States. Fraternal harmonies, New Orleans horns, and pop rhythms, when mixed effectively tend to engender popularity, and I predict good things for Racoon Wedding in the future.

The opening piano riff plays like a more bluesy version of a Jukebox the Ghost piece. The lead vocal is course-grained with a hint of southern cooking. The harmonies come from all angles and are extremely effective. Throw in some drunken horns (in the best possible way) and a taste of jazz/ragtime/period drums and you have a great song. Make sure to check out the rest of the album. Here is some information

Facebook, Website

%d bloggers like this: