Tag Archives: Corinne Bailey Rae

Shuffle Lessons, Vol. 4

1. “In Step” – Girl Talk, Feed The Animals

This track kicks off with Drama’s “Left, Right” over a mash of Roy Orbison’s “You Got It” and Jermaine Stewart’s “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off.” Gotta love that spray paint can rattling noise over Orbison singing. Second part kicks off with “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa over Nirvana’s “Lithium,” which is an insanely creative appropriation of that grunge riff. It’s interesting that Girl Talk opted out of the instantly recognizable (to ’90s kids) hook of the Salt-N-Pepa song, that synthey “bah, BAH bah bah bah…” and instead just used the rap and some of the beat I think.

This track definitely starts low and crescendos by the end, with Ludacris’ verse from Fergie’s “Glamorous” over Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.” The “take your broke ass home!” chant over EWF’s “bah-dee-yah” refrain is just awesome. The song caps off with Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” over what I’m assuming is chopped up beats from Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine’s “1-2-3” OR Diddy Feat. Keyshia Cole’s “Last Night,” but in reality I can’t hear the beat element in either of those original tunes.

Overall, not one of my favorites off of this album. There are some alright mash-ups (EWF x Luda is pretty great), but no real “oh no he didn’t!!” moments like many of the other tracks.

2. “Choux Pastry Heart” – Corinne Bailey Rae, Corinne Bailey Rae

One of the many understated beauties off of Corinne Bailey Rae’s self-titled debut album. The entire album is essentially an experiment of combining jazz, folk and soul genres and seeing what happens. The result is fantastic, and it’s probably only made better by the fact that you can occasionally hear CBR’s soft English accent in her voice. So pretty. This song is, as many of this album’s songs are, easily ignored. “Ignore” has too negative of a connotation, what I mean is that it very easily fades into the background of the listener’s environment. If you want to truly hear this song, get some headphones and quiet everything else down. What is she singing about? I never know. I never really need to though, because her voice naturally emanates a kind of melancholy in the way she hits notes, how she controls her breath and the cadence of her lyrical lines. I just gave this song a solid three listens in a row, and I still don’t know what the song is about, but I sure do know she’s heartbroken. I love CBR and this song for that reason; she has this emotional command over her voice that is memorizing, but only if you work for it. The second you start to pay attention, she’s got you hooked.

3. “Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson, Thriller

I’ve been a little nervous to get a song like this in this series. What the heck do you write about one of Thriller‘s deeper tracks, let alone the arguable grand daddy of them all? I’m just going to take it at face value and run with it.

So I’m a huge fan of this song, mainly because I’ve only really known it for no longer than 10 years. One of the very few advantages of not growing up on secular music is the older-aged discoveries of all of this incredible music I essentially missed out on (I’m looking at you, Doobie Brothers’ “What A Fool Believes”). This is one of those songs that I never listened to as a kid and subsequently never got sick of. However, contrary to popular belief, I hate hearing this song at weddings or organized group events where I’m expected to dance to it. As much as I love this song, it’s just a little too slow for me (or most white people at the weddings I go to) to feel comfortable dancing to it. It’s almost too stripped down for reserved people to feel able to let loose and dance.

But it’s exactly that sparceness that makes this tune so great. The drums, that ridiculously catchy bass line, the funky rhythm guitar, each element here has been meticulously chosen to form this cohesive end product. Like nearly everything on Thriller, it’s a beautiful example of how MJ knew how to write an infectiously catchy tune and what a genius producer Quincy Jones was/is.

4. “Something About Us” – Daft Punk, Discovery

Easily one of my Top 3 Favorites off of Discovery, my favorite Daft Punk album. One of only two legitimately slow songs on the album, this is just a heartfelt and romantic song sung by a robot. One of the greatest things that Daft Punk has ever been able to do is play with this robot persona they’ve had for almost 20 years and juxtapose it alongside true emotion in their music. This song is all blips and bloops and synth and yet it’s got this inherently sad feeling to it. This robot is pleading for love and connection. This song exudes the most authentic emotion capable from artificial intelligence. This song is the best way to slow down the relentless pace of great song after great song on Discovery.

5. “Dreams” – Fleetwood Mac, Rumours

My iPod must be sad today cause it grabbed three sad songs out of 1000. Here is another pretty depressing song about the heartbreak of being left and the remorse of leaving. This is one of the songs that originally hooked me from Rumours. I’m not in love with Stevie Nicks’ voice, but it grabs me in this song. “Dreams of loneliness, like a heartbeat, drives you mad, in the stillness of remembering what you had…” Yikes. Hell hath no fury, amiright Justin? I also love the under-instrumentation in this tune. The verses are basically just the steady drum beat and heartbeat-like bass line, with the occasional sliding guitar riff thrown in. There’s not a lot more on top of that, and that serves to highlight Stevie’s part even more. This is a very pretty, very sad song off of a decently happy album.

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Shuffle Lessons, Volume 2

The only note I want to make before I launch into this set of songs is I’m shuffling my Top 1000. Rather than my whole library, I’ve chosen to shuffle just the Top 1000 playlist because I’ll have loads more to say about any of these songs rather than say, “A Horse With No Name” by America. That said, here we go.

1. Take Your Time Feat. Corinne Bailey Rae – Al Green

I believe this is the very first song I ever heard off of Al Green’s Lay It Down, way back in the spring of ’08. I was in Spain and this tune had leaked a few months in advance and I remember thinking, “Whoa. He might have a massive, modern classic on his hands.” That was correct. The whole album is just the densest, richest, lushest music he’s ever made. It’s absolutely as good as his prime albums from the early ‘70s, but with a whole new layer of depth, thanks to master producers ?uestlove and James Poyser. But enough about the album. This tune is just a sweet love song about slowing things down. Corinne Bailey Rae guests on this song, and she adds just a great voice alongside Mr. Green’s. He does his little talk-ish ad-libs and she sings a more straightforward part, but when they combine during the chorus it’s just a fantastic blend that sits perfectly on top of the rest of the tune. And talk about a lesson on incorporating string arrangements into your song. Yowza, the strings float this tune along like a leaf on a crick. There is nothing here that needs to go any faster.

2. The Only One I Know Feat. Robbie Williams – Mark Ronson

This one is one of the more forgettable tracks off of Mark Ronson’s Version, his album of (mostly) covers with guest artists. This particular track is a cover of a song by the UK band The Charlatans, a band I know nothing about. As I’ve never heard the original before, this is the definitive version of this song for me, which means I lose out on any artistic critique due to its nature as a cover song. Most of this album consists of covers out of left field, spun with Ronson’s trademark “‘60s soul with a modern twist” sound. Lots of great horns, addictive rhythms, etc., but while this tune has most of those elements, it just falls flat. The featured artist here is Robbie Williams, another UK singer I know nothing about. He adds little to the song that makes me want to keep playing it. And most often, this tune gets a skip from me.

3. The Cave – Mumford & Sons

I don’t think I’d heard banjo played in such a grand, majestic way before I heard Mumford & Sons, and specifically this song. I was a little behind on the Mumford train, heard them (and this song) for the first time when they played with Bob Dylan and the Avett Brothers at the 2011 Grammy Awards. The performance was great for a lot of reasons, but this was the song they played, and it made an impression on me. These guys are great. The biggest criticism I’ve read of their album Sigh No More is that it’s lots of the same, which I get, but what they do, they do so well. What’s the problem with having an album that stylistically sounds very similar when that style is awesome? This song especially just has the best hook in the world. Best I’ve heard with a banjo anyway. This album helped me recognize a completely original and unseen (by me) part of folk music. Up until this song I had heard folk as primarily a quiet genre. This song blew that misconception out of the water. Yeah, folk can be quiet and beautiful, or it can be raucous and beautiful. One could almost label this song folk-rauc.

4. Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois – Sufjan Stevens

Keeping in mind the goal of writing succinctly for these Shuffle Lessons, it is unfortunate that iTunes landed on a song by Sufjan Stevens. Sufjan has an incredibly literary form of songwriting that feels at home among Emerson or Thoreau. One could easily write a seminary dissertation on his Seven Swans album. This tune, the Side 1 Track 1 of Illinois, is a perfect example. Clocking in at just over 2 minutes, the song captures the fear and wonder of those involved in an alleged UFO sighting in Highland, Illinois in 2000. If you doubt, listen to the song again. He uses the word “revenant” not four words in. Are you kidding me? What a songwriter. Listen to all of 10 seconds of any Sufjan song and you know the guy is a deeply talented artist. He can write (“John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” is a profoundly dark and beautiful song about the innate horror of our fallen human nature) and he can play. I don’t know how he seems to write music that seems so unheard of. Like when I first heard this song (even more so this whole album), it was like I was hearing a new genre for the first time. Or seven new genres for the first time. He just combines instruments and time signatures and melodies and song structures in such unique ways and creates something wholly his own. This song is just perfect though. Haunting, short, mysterious, affecting, and perplexing. Much like a UFO sighting?…

5. Quiet – John Mayer

This was one of the first JM songs I ever heard, more than 10 years ago. Holy cow that is a long time. But this is originally the kind of music that originally hooked me, super simple guitar yet incredibly melodic, and lyrics that encapsulate feelings I hadn’t heard communicated so well in song before. This song is a perfect example of what a great songwriter JM is, even from the get-go. This whole song is about the Sunday Night Blues, which I had always felt but never really heard discussed in real life. Like Sunday nights always just felt off to me. I felt extra lonely or weird or sad or unmotivated on Sunday nights. It just felt like the world was cold and had nothing to offer that made me feel alive and happy. Kind of the same thing as the feeling I got on Christmas night. But then I heard this song, and I heard this feeling being sung. And played. Like exactly. He paints perfect word pictures here that explain exactly how I was feeling but couldn’t say. “3:02 / the space in this room / has turned on me / all my fears / have cornered me here / me and my TV screen.” He completely captured the Sunday night angst that so many 15-25 year olds (and probably others) feel. He played this song in Iowa City in 2003, and he introduced it by saying, “Sunday nights cannot be trusted.” Feel free to hold whatever opinion about the guy as a person, but damned if he can’t write.

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Shuffle Lessons, Volume 1

I have an iTunes playlist named Top 1000, and it is the 1000 songs with the highest playcounts. Last night, Colleen and I were hanging out and listening to some music, and I had a great idea. I am going to put this playlist on random and write about the first few songs that play. Might be my personal review of the song, or what influenced the song or who it influenced. Not only does this give me a chance to relisten to songs I probably have listened to in awhile, it will help me learn more about the incredible music I own. Let’s get to it.

1. “Levi Johnston’s Blues” – Ben Folds and Nick Hornby, Lonely Avenue

This might be the easiest to unpack on this first set of five. This is a song off of Lonely Avenue, the joint album between Folds and Hornby. It’s written from the perspective of poor Levi Johnston, an Alaskan kid whose life would be completely different had he just worn a condom. When they were just 18 years old, he and Bristol Palin announced (via Sarah Palin’s campaign) that they were pregnant. And getting married. Poor kid. And that’s essentially the message of the song. He clearly had no idea what he got himself involved in and was in over his head. Obviously, this song paints an unpleasant picture of the entire gang involved. Johnston, the Palin women, and the moral value system their campaign was based upon is not looked on in a favorable light. But whatever your political view is, the song does get its message across in an effective way as most Ben Folds songs do. It takes the pretty awful protagonist and makes him relatable, so rather than judging the kid for being a douche bag (which he clearly is), you’re left shaking your head at how much of a kid he was when the whole thing happened. This doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it makes me feel bad for him and Bristol more than anything else. The song has a very pretty pre-chorus too.

2. “The Root” – D’Angelo, Voodoo

Definitely my favorite of this set of five, and the most dense. I listened to this song during my break outside tonight. As the song gets into the penultimate chorus, my head bob got increasingly inaccurate. That’s where the groove lies. The interplay between ?uestlove’s drumming and Charlie Hunter’s bass guitar playing is so laid back. It sounds like they’re playing a game to see who can be behind the beat more often, and they each have their turn. It’s a crazy beat to follow. And the guitar is insane. I mentioned Charlie Hunter; he not only plays bass for this tune, but he is simultaneously laying down the guitar track. The guitar he used was an 8-string guitar/bass combo, so the three low strings are actually bass strings, and the top five are guitar. The way he marries the two sounds so good.

Now focus on D’Angelo. This is how good his whole album is; when I listen to it, I often find myself overlooking his vocals because of how good his instrumentation is. And his vocals are from another world. His voice is saturated with soul. His voice is so strong and stirring that he doesn’t need to stand on the shoulders of the giants of soul, he stands among them. And this song is a perfect example. He sings of the emotional remains of a love that has broken down. This woman has done worked a root on our man D. What I love is the drama he brings to this tune. He speaks about his failed love in terms of life and death and all things in between. “In the name of love and hope, she took my shield and sword, from the pit of the bottom, that knows no floor. Like the rain to the dirt, from the vine to the wine, from the alpha of creation, to the end of all time.” While this might seem a bit sensational, this is how it feels to have love mess you up. Clearly this poor guy is wrecked. But his emotional trauma makes for the funkiest,dirrtiest break-up song ever.

3. “Midnight Cruiser” – Steely Dan, Can’t Buy A Thrill

Not much to say about this one. This is off the album Can’t Buy a Thrill, which is a great album, and that’s the reason this song made it into the Top 1000. While not a terrible song, it is one of the more forgettable tracks from the album, with Stewart Mason of Allmusic.com* calling it “musically faceless.” A great description.

4. “Up With The Birds” – Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto

One of my lesser favorite tunes off of Mylo Xyloto. Musically I feel like this belongs way more with Prospekt’s March than this album. Or maybe this whole album is really just a continuation of that EP. I’d say due to a few key musical elements (specifically Jonny Buckland’s super fast guitar riffs), there is a big connection between that EP and this new album. And while this particular tune has some nice sounds (first half), the second half reminds me so much of Now My Feet Won’t Touch The Ground. Just kind of a bland way to end a pretty cool, large album.

5. “Like A Star” – Corinne Bailey Rae, Corinne Bailey Rae

This was the second song I ever heard by CBR. The acoustic version of Put Your Records On was offered as a free download of the week by iTunes and I remember thinking I had to hear more of this voice that just oozed British soul. Whenever I can hear a woman sing the word “can’t” and it sounds like “caaaan’t,” I very nearly fall in love. So once I heard this tune, I lost my mind. The way this song is set up is so perfect. The feeling of the song sounds like one acoustic guitar following this beautiful chord progression, but then when the drums and strings comes in just before the 1:00 mark, it brings it to this other level of sexiness that really draws the listener in and overwhelms them. I don’t know how CBR spans so many different music genres and blends them together so seamlessly. It’s R&B/soul with the genetic code of jazz. While I’m sure creating a song this fluid is not easy, it’s a credit to her talent that she is able to make it sound so effortless.

-Jon

http://www.allmusic.com/song/midnight-cruiser-t2372527

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