Yazz Ahmed

Yazz Ahmed: British jazz meets the Persian Gulf

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Bahrain-born, UK-based multi-instrumentalist Yazz Ahmed, like Kamasi Washington in the United States, is reintroducing a new generation to modern jazz. Ahmed has worked with These New Puritans and Radiohead (she plays flugelhorn throughout ‘The King of Limbs’), and in her solo music, she combines her British and Arabic roots through jazz and electronic experimentation. Even if you’re not familiar or terribly interested in jazz, Ahmed’s music deserves your attention, and she’ll most likely make you second guess your thoughts on jazz.

From Ahmed’s Bandcamp bio:

“[Yazz Ahmed’s] new album ‘La Saboteuse’ [out May 12, 2017] is a deep exploration of both her British and Bahraini roots. Ably assisted by musicians including Lewis Wright on vibraphone, MOBO-winning new jazz kingpin Shabaka Hutchings on bass clarinet and Naadia Sherriff on Fender Rhodes keyboard, it’s composed of undulating rhythms, Middle Eastern melody and Yazz’s sonorous trumpet lines. The record sounds like the passage of a desert caravan, bathed in moonlight. The theme of ‘La Saboteuse’ is the sense of self-doubt that Yazz feels when she is creating, personified in a female saboteur, an anti-muse that spurs her into action.

‘La Saboteuse’ will be released in four chapters incrementally, unraveling the story, before the full version is available. Each chapter has its own cover, with beautiful illustrations by Bristol artist Sophie Bass.”

Yazz Ahmed: Website SoundCloud Facebook Twitter

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Radiohead – “Skttrbrain (Four Tet Remix)”

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Year: 2004

Album: Com Lag: 2+2=5

Now that I’m over A Moon Shaped Pool, I can go back and listen to interesting Radiohead.

(I kid of course; All of Radiohead’s music takes a little time to grow on me. I hated The King Of Limbs on first listen and now I enjoy it. I liked A Moon Shaped Pool on first listen and I’ll grow to love it more.)

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Radiohead – “Vegetable”

Pablo Honey is Radiohead’s cursed debut album. I say cursed because it’s only known as the album with “Creep,” which from the start almost doomed the young band to become a one hit wonder. Nearly everyone, including the band, dismissed it as early as 1995.

Which is a shame, because Pablo Honey is such a beautiful album with plenty of great songs that never touched “Creep” in exposure or debate. It’s more enjoyable than it is interesting, and there’s no denying that Radiohead made their first great leap forward with their following up album, The Bends, which perfected their stadium-sized melancholy. But this was a time when Radiohead still wrote songs with melodies (remember those?), and there’s nothing wrong with writing safe songs if they sound as great as this.

Just listen to “Vegetable” and imagine what it takes from Morrissey. It won’t change your life, but you’ll have some new songs to add to your wishful nighttime playlist.

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10 Songs To Introduce You To…Radiohead

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How the hell do you introduce someone to Radiohead? Seriously, where do you start? “Creep”? Ok Computer? “Paranoid Android”? Kid A? In Rainbows? The “Lotus Flower” music video? Where do you start?

A lot of how Radiohead is appreciated, in addition to their excellent catalog, is by how they’ve helped change and define rock music in the past 20 years. But for someone who missed out on hearing Ok Computer back in 1997 or hearing the band’s radical transition to Kid A back in 2000 or paying whatever price they wanted for In Rainbows the trick is to hook the person onto the music and not onto the backstory.

But how do you introduce a band that is known for great albums instead of great singles? That’s like introducing Quentin Tarantino to someone by only showing the best scenes from some of his movies — the true learning experience comes from watching all of his movies and seeing how one artist can have so much vision and range. This is the issue that is faced with Radiohead. They have eight albums that are all excellent in their own ways (yes, even Pablo Honey is great in its own skin). And yes, they have a couple of songs that you already know and/or would recognize, but praising just “Paranoid Android” makes no sense when you take out the rest of Ok Computer.

But alas, I’ve tried to cover Radiohead’s glorious career in only ten songs, because I like the challenge (and probably because I’m an idiot for thinking that this can be done). I tried to represent each Radiohead album on this list to show how diverse each album is, but if it were up to me I would simply tell you to go listen to all their albums right now. But you probably don’t have the time (or the desire) to do that, so here’s my attempt to (hopefully) give you a solid introduction to one of the best rock bands of recent memory.

For all my fellow Radiohead fans, I hope you understand my selection. For everyone else, let’s travel back to 1993.

1) “Creep”

The song that started it all. If Radiohead never made anything after Pablo Honey they would still be known as the band that made “Creep”. It was one of the first big hits in the post-Nirvana 90s, and, contrary to how the band might feel today, it’s still a great song. The first time you hear Jonny Greenwood’s guitar explosion into the chorus is a special moment.

 

2) “High And Dry”

After going through The Bends, I considered making a separate list called, “10 Songs To Introduce You To…The Bends“. Radiohead’s sophomore album is full of fantastic songs that showcased the flexibility and songwriting chops of a young band that was getting better at an alarming rate. Of all of Radiohead’s albums, The Bends is the one that has the best mix of songs that standout on their own, and most of the songs stay within the stadium-guitar-rock-via-The-Smiths ballpark that Coldplay would eventually go on to perfect (When someone compares Coldplay to Radiohead, they’re talking about The Bends).

“High And Dry” off The Bends is my favorite Radiohead ballad and, along with “Fake Plastic Trees”, is one of the band’s best overall songs.

 

3) “Bones”

The flipped side of the Bends coin is the loud guitar rock that was greatly improved upon since Pablo Honey. The album is full of great guitar moments (“The Bends”, “Just”, “My Iron Lung”), but I put “Bones” on the list because it shows how Radiohead can turn the guitars all the way up without sounding overbearing.

 

4) “Paranoid Android”

We each have our different picks for favorite Radiohead songs, but it’s hard to find a better Radiohead song than “Paranoid Android”. A three-song-in-one approach was taken from the White Album-era Beatles, and the end result is an incredible example of a piece of art that was hugely ambitious yet strangely accessible.

 

5) “Everything In Its Right Place”

One of the most infamous album openers of all time. When Kid A came out in 2000 it sounded like nothing else being made in popular music, and “Everything In Its Right Place” literally sounded like it came from outer space. Thirteen years later, Kid A still sounds exciting, but if it sounds somewhat conventional to you, then that’s a testament to how important Kid A was for music in the early new millennia.

 

6) “Idioteque”

Ask me to play you one song that’ll make you “get” Kid A and I’ll probably play you “Idioteque”. I believe this song, more than any song off Kid A, helped usher in a new era of popular music that allowed more digital sampling. Too bad I’ve yet to hear anything that is as catchy as this song.

 

7) “I Might Be Wrong”

It’s pretty common to title Amnesiac as The Godfather Part II to Kid A‘s The Godfather. Both albums came out of the same studio sessions and both albums focused less on guitars and more on electronics and experimentation, but there is still a clear distinction between the two albums (to me Kid A sounds more like the rejection of isolation while Amnesiac sounds like the embracement of it).

“I Might Be Wrong” is on this list because it restates the fact that, no matter how experimental Radiohead will get, they will always be rooted in guitar music. Plus, it’s a killer song.

 

8) “2+2=5”

I have mixed feelings for Hail To The Thief. I initially dismissed it as an album with no direction and as the first bland Radiohead album. But over time I’ve grown attached to Radiohead’s weirder side (I hated Kid A when I first heard it, but now I love it), and now Hail To The Thief sounds like a great fusion of experimentation and grounded guitar songwriting.

But all feelings aside, “2+2=5” has been and always will be my favorite Radiohead album opener, which is a high honor considering that literally every single Radiohead opener is great. The song matches the paranoia that is hinted in the Orwellian title by the nervous guitar picking and Thom Yorke’s singing that transitions into a glorious freakout midway through.

 

9) “Reckoner”

It was this or “House of Cards”. Or “15 Steps”. Or anything else off In Rainbows.

In Rainbows is my favorite Radiohead album because it introduced me to Radiohead, and “Reckoner” stood out to me immediately because of how the song matures so much in so little time. Do yourself a favor and listen to all of In Rainbows.

 

10) “Lotus Flower”

The King Of Limbs is the most recent Radiohead album and, like Hail To The Thief, I initially had mixed opinions. We’ll see over time if this album grows on me, but I included “Lotus Flower” on this list because A) it’s a pretty good song and B) the music video.

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Playlist: 20 Songs For June 2013 (Via Spotify)

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With the exception of Yeezus, most of my June was spent going through bits of past ambient pop that I’ve grown to appreciate. Whether it’s IDM from the 90s (Aphex Twin), early 2000s indie-rock (Broken Social Scene), or the very recent dance pop from overseas (Disclosure), I was so into this music that I was almost tempted to go out and buy a mini controller. Almost. But of course there was plenty of other great non-electronic music to be heard this past month.

Here are my 20 songs for June 2013.

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Music History 101: Radiohead’s Awkward MTV Gig

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Today’s lesson: Radiohead’s awkward performance of “Creep” on MTV’s Beach House.

In 1993 Radiohead was a struggling young band trying to catch a break. Their first single (and still probably their most famous song) “Creep” was slowly climbing up the charts, and it wasn’t long before MTV wanted to cash in on this new and upcoming band.

Below is the infamous MTV Beach House performance, where a young Radiohead plays an awkward show for a young crowd that thinks they like Radiohead but they’re not sure.

Its beauty lies in its awkwardness. Enjoy.

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Music Journal: What I’ll Remember The Most About Music In 2011

2011 was a good year for music.  It got weird at times (LuLu anyone?), and sometimes things were just plain bad (LuLu anyone?), but in 2011 there was always something to talk about in the world of music…like Lulu.  There are a few among many moments that I’ll remember the most – the first time I saw the music video for “Yonkers”, the death of Amy Winehouse, the new Radiohead album suddenly being released and then all the extra drama over its quality, and many more.

Here’s what I’ll remember the most about music in 2o11.

2011: The Year of Adele

No one had a bigger year than Adele in 2011.  She was inescapable, and her mega hits “Rolling In The Deep” and “Someone Like You” played everywhere and at all times.  Her second album 21 is America’s best-selling album since Usher’s Confessions back from 2004, with 5.28 million copies sold and counting.  Many, including myself, got cynical about this Brit sensation and how big she got, but nobody can deny her talent.  Just listen below to her cover Bob Dylan, and realize the power that is Adele.

 

The “Yonkers” music video, and the arrival of Tyler The Creator and Odd Future.

The first time I saw this music video I didn’t know what to think, but I knew it would get big soon.  Sure enough, Tyler the Creator and the rest of his rap group Odd Future became famous, or infamous depending on the person.  If you’ve never seen this video then you’re in for a treat.

 

The End of R.E.M., The White Stripes, and LCD Soundsystem

Nothing last forever, even great bands have to end eventually.  This year, three major acts called it quits, each leaving a huge void in the music world where they made their impact.  R.E.M. basically invented what we call “Alternative” and “Indie” music (sorry for the bold claim, but it’s hard to dispute it).  The White Stripes were the leaders of the back-to-basics rock revival of the early 2000s, and Jack White is a modern-day guitar hero.  LCD Soundsystem, the creative vehicle of James Murphy, was to me the modern day David Bowie, an artist who combined various genres and creative unique music that refused to compromise commercial success for artistic value.  Each of these acts will be greatly missed.

 

Arcade Fire Wins A Grammy

Back in February Arcade Fire, the biggest band nobody knew, won the Grammy for best album for 2010’s fantastic The Suburbs. The win came as a shock, mainly because most people had never heard of this little big band from Canada.  The win was huge for the indie world, and showed that the Grammys weren’t totally out of touch with the world.  The video below is fun to watch, neither the announcers or the band could believe what had happened.  For the article I posted the day after the Grammys, click here.

 

The King of Limbs: Proof That Radiohead Can Do Anything And Still Be Loved

Radiohead have been known for pulling some big stunts, and this year’s shenanigans ranks up near the top.  Let’s backtrack to pre-King of Limbs.  Radiohead hasn’t released a proper album since 2007’s In Rainbows and have been hush-hush about their plans for an upcoming album.  Then all of a sudden, they tell the world they’ll release an album within the week!  Fans were freaking out, the Internet exploded, and both Radiohead fans and haters were curious.  This was a truly an event, and it just goes to show how popular Radiohead truly are, that they can get the world excited over an album in a time where the value of an album has gone dramatically down.

I remember counting down the days, waiting for what I was hoping to be the album of the year.  Then, in another crazy move, they released the album a day early!  I woke up to the news and within the hour I had the new Radiohead album.  I stopped everything, downloaded the album, began playing it on my iTunes, and I listened.  Thirty-seven quick minutes later the album was over, and a realization came, something I didn’t think I would ever hear myself say.

The new Radiohead album…kinda sucks.

The songs all sounded the same and I felt there was much left to be desired.  I was shocked that, after four years of nothing, this was the best the band who brought us The Bends and OK Computer could give us.  There was no way that Radiohead could have done this, that they put so much hype behind, what I truly thought at the time, a piece of crap.  I thought there had to be more, this was a cruel joke, there would be more music coming out.  More music never came out.  What followed was a huge division among fans and critics – you either loved or hated the album, no middle group.  I was apart of the latter, and I was bothered by how many people were raving about the album.

Much time has passed, and though I still don’t think it’s that great, I have come to appreciate some of The King of Limbs.  It’s art, and Radiohead have always created great art that is challenging.  I thought Kid A sucked when I first heard it, but over time it grew on me and now I love that album.  The  King of Limbs is nowhere near as good as Kid A, but it’s not a piece of crap.  Plus the album gave us my favorite music video of the year.

If anything, this event showed to me that Radiohead could do anything they want and still be loved.  Thom Yorke should released an album of him of just farting, just to see how well it does.  I’ll end this rant with a link to a Spin article released in 2009 about Radiohead.  It’s very interesting, and it might change your perspective about the band.  Read the article here.

 

Spotify: A Game Changer

Spotify finally came to the US, and it caught fire fast.  Spotify’s popularity could very well put an end to the MP3, with strictly all-digital music becoming the way of the future for music.  Good for fans, bad for the artist and labels, but it’s truly an evolution in the music industry.

 

The Death Of Amy Winehouse, And Other Great Losses

No death this year was as shocking as the death of famed British soul singer Amy Winehouse.  She died so young and unexpectedly, and her death at twenty-seven added her to the infamous twenty-seven club.  She was a true talent, a kind of artist with a voice and personality that comes only so often, and a promising career was cut tragically short.  This year we also lost Clarence Clemons, saxophone player and founding member of the E Street Band with Bruce Springsteen, famed musician-poet Gil Scott-Heron, and Steve Jobs, whose iPod technology changed how we listen to music.  All these and more talented people were taken from us in 2011, and they will be greatly missed.

 

And Of Course…Lulu

A bad idea that was even worse when realized.  Lou Reed and Metallica came together and created a piece of crap.  This album had so much buzz behind it, it was already one of the most talked about collaborations in recent time.  The backlash it has received only cements this album more into music history as the greatest WTF moment of 2011.

 

I’m sure I forgot some big events, but these are the events that defined 2011 for me.  It was a crazy year with many ups and down, but some fantastic music was released.  I’m excited to see what 2012 has in store for us.  Enjoy the rest of the holidays and have a fun and safe time bringing in the new year, and make sure to continue keeping up with Headphone Nation for all that is music.

Tune in. Tune out. Live on.

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Grammy Nominations: Who Should Win, Who Will Win, And Who Got Snubbed

The Grammy nominations have been announced, and there were a lot of pleasant surprises.  Some things I expected (Kanye West and Adele with the most nominations), but there were some genuine shockers (Bon Iver getting so many nominations, Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy not up for Album of the Year).  Here is the list for the most prominent awards and their nominees along with who I think should win, who will probably win, and who I believe got snubbed out of a well-deserved chance at this year’s Grammys.  Also to clarify, Song of the Year means that it was the best written song and the award goes to the songwriters.  Record of the Year is the best sounding song and goes to the performers and producers.

Album of the Year

Adele – 21

Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

Lady Gaga – Born This Way

Bruno Mars – Do-Wops & Hooligans

Rihanna – Loud

Who Should Win: None of these.  I’m very unimpressed with this selection.  The only album here I’ve heard is Wasting Light which is a great album, but there were much better albums that came out this year.

Who Will Win: 21, because that’s what most people heard all year.

Who Got Snubbed: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This was truly the album of the year.  It was commercially successful while still being artistically strong.  The Purple Rain of our generation (might not be a good comparison musically, but hopefully you get what I mean).

Record of the Year

Bon Iver – “Holocene”

Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”

Mumford & Sons – “The Cave”

Bruno Mars – “Grenade”

Katy Perry – “Firework”

Who Should Win: “Holocene”.  The production of this song is gorgeous and is matched with an equally gorgeous vocal work from Justin Vernon.  A highlight from a truly great album.

Who Will Win: “Rolling in the Deep”.  It was impossible to escape this song, and unfortunately I bet most people have never heard “Holocene” (for those people, please click here).  But then again, I said the same thing about Arcade Fire at last year’s Grammys.

Who Got Snubbed: The Strokes – “Taken For A Fool”.  Listen to the song here and see if you agree.

Song of the Year

Kanye West – “All of the Lights”

Mumford & Sons – “The Cave”

Bruno Mars – “Grenade”

Bon Iver – “Holocene”

Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”

Who Should Win: “The Cave”.  This is such a great and uplifting song, something that has been missing from popular music for a long time.

Who Will Win: “Rolling in the Deep”.  Same reason as why it’ll win Record of the Year.

Who Got Snubbed: The Head And The Heart – “Down In The Valley”.  A simple yet powerful song.  Click here to make up your mind on it.

Best New Artist

Bon Iver

J. Cole

Nicki Minaj

Skrillex

The Band Perry

Who Should Win: Either Bon Iver or Nicki Minaj.  Both have been around for a decent time making quality music, but they are now getting due credit.  I’ll be happy just as long as J. Cole, Skrillex, or The Band Perry doesn’t win the award.

Who Will Win: This is a tough call.  Probably Nicki Minaj but there’s a decent chance for Bon Iver.

Who Got Snubbed: The Head And The Heart.  I’m not sure if they would be eligible, but this is a solid band with a promising future.

Best Rock Album

Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

Jeff Beck – Rock ‘N’ Roll Party Honoring Les Paul

Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown

Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You

Wilco – The Whole Love

Who Should Win: The Whole Love.  I’m so glad Wilco gets recognition from the Grammys.  This was by far my favorite album out of all of these, and I actually listened to all of these (expect Jeff Beck).

Who Will Win: Wasting Light.  The album did well commercially and it really is a great album.

Who Got Snubbed: The Strokes – Angels.  This might not be the band’s best album, but it was better than most of the albums on this list.

Best Alternative Album

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys

Foster the People – Torches

My Morning Jacket – Circuital

Radiohead – The King of Limbs

Who Should Win: Bon Iver.  For goodness sake please give Justin Vernon a Grammy.

Who Will Win: No Idea: This is a hard call because all these albums did equally well commercially.  Radiohead is probably the most well known band here, but they don’t deserve this Grammy.

Who Got Snubbed: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues.  This album had my vote for the best album of the year so far.  Though my opinion may have changed, this album still deserves a Grammy.

Best Rap Album

Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne

Lil Wayne – Tha Carter IV

Lupe Fiasco – Lasers

Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Who Should Win: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  The least the Grammys can do for Kanye is to give him this award to make up for not being nominated for Album of the Year.

Who Will Win: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  I have faith that the Grammys won’t screw this up, but anything can happen.

Who Got Snubbed: Nobody.  That’s because MBDTF deserves this award.

Other Thoughts On This Year’s Grammys

James Blake should have been nominated for Electronica Album of the Year.

Congratulations to Fleet Foxes for being nominated for Folk Album of the Year.

So how did I do?  Are my predictions accurate or way out of line?  Comment below or Tweet at me (@BradyWGerber) and let me know who should bring home the big trophies at this year’s Grammys.


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Music History 101: The Only Time Radiohead Played Saturday Night Live

It has been confirmed that Radiohead will be the musical guest for the season premiere of Saturday Night Live on September 24th (With Alec Baldwin hosting!).

As popular as this band is among critics and fans, it will be very strange to see a band like Radiohead on TV performing for a mainly mainstream audience.

Radiohead have performed on SNL only once before, back in 2000 when Kid A came out.  Click here to see them perform “The National Anthem” and you’ll be able to guess why they’ve only played SNL once.  It’s a great performance but it feels out of place on SNL, especially with Kate Hudson cheering in the background.

Also I apologize for the Chinese.  Youtube didn’t have the video, but Tudou did!

Thanks Consequence Of Sound for the story.

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