Get On Your Dancing Shoes-Basement Jaxx- Junto

Joe K.

Whenever I think of BASEMENT JAXX, the first thing that comes to mind (other than half of the parties I went to in high school) is the cover artwork of “Rooty”. The branch-chomping gorilla seems to be burned into my subconscious forever.

Their music is just as unforgettable. Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe are what I affectionately refer to as a “kitchen sink” band; they can throw anything and everything onto an album and make it not only work, but memorable. Unfortunately, Felix and Simon muddle the magic touch on their first album in 4 years, Junto.

The opening tracks have a pretty decent bounce and a good blend of electronic beats, tribal drums and Latin rhythms, but do little more to excite me.  The upbeat and hopeful lyrics of “Power To The People” -“If we come together, we can do something amazing”- share some nice, yet unoriginal sentiments. But have faith, dear listeners, the duo starts to shakes off the rust soon enough.

Spacey beats and vocals give “We Are Not Alone” a wonderful, otherworldly vibe. “Summer Dem” (featuring MC Patricia Panther) has a great funk/disco emphasis, while Mykki Blanco’s craggy, straight up hip-hop on “Buffalo” adds variety to the album (you can almost see the bare kitchen by this point).  

The dance train continues with “Sneakin Toronto”, a perfect house equation: great electronic beats + upbeat lyrical fragments = awesome. Then, ”Something About You” pleasantly switches up the album’s pace with a minimalist beat.

Honestly though, the last 2 tracks put me to sleep. “Mermaid of Salinas” plods along despite a good Latin/Flamenco groove. However, it trumps the clunky “Love is At Your Side,” which should have just been dropped into the garbage disposal.

Overall, the album’s standard Basement Jaxx sound and upbeat messages will at least keep their faithful followers dancing, but I doubt it will win over any new fans.

twitter: @KralTunes

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Tokyo, Unsigned

Text and photos by Kimberly Cecchini

In a city of many signs, there was no sign. In Manhattan’s East Village, no sign is a sign in itself. On foreign soil, I’m not sure if by following the man in dark clothes on this darker street up a dark stairwell is a sign that we stumbled upon a cool spot for local Tokyoites or we are just foolish tourists.

Perhaps both or neither are true, but we were rewarded with a quiet retreat from the ever pulsating Shinjuku. The narrow, dimly lit space was framed by a black wall and 10 stools up against a thick wooden bar. A few Star Wars figures paraded amongst the top shelf bottle collection of the Shot Bar Cantina. Albeit the jazz playing did not quite embody the spunk of the house band of its intergalactic namesake, the swankier bar is still a fun nod to the film franchise.

A few single patrons softly chatted with the bartenders near the door and a cooked pig thigh propped up on the counter for fresh sliced ham snacks. We cozied up on stools at the other end in front of a gleaming tray of fresh fruit waiting for an intricately mixed cocktail.

With a bit of help from a translation app on one of the bartender’s phone, we conversed a bit back and forth about impressions of Tokyo and New York. The one young man conveyed the seedier back streets of the modern Japanese capital with some dramatic gesturing.

We did not come across the mob activity they acted out for us, but of course we certainly were not seeking it out either. From an outsider’s perspective, the chaos of the crowded metropolis looks like it is infinitely organized, but we saw a bit of its underlying disorder from the antics of teenage boys who laughed as they made dominos out of a row of bicycles to Tokyo’s infamous red light district.

A ten minute walk from the Shinjuku transit hub, the Kabukicho district is not hidden and it is not shy. Although the government has made attempts to clean it up and the district hosts more wholesome attractions, it does feel shadier than the surrounding neighborhoods with slick-looking characters and brazen advertisements for women. What happens behind the bouncers and neon is blatantly obvious and we did not linger.

In or out of Kabukicho, Shinjuku is a rising, glittery wave that puts demands on your senses from all directions. Like me, you may try to absorb some of it through a camera lens, but sometimes you may also just be tempted to duck into a tiny spot off your path when beckoned.

http://bar-cantina.com 

More on Japan: Shinjuku, Block no. 2Hikari Express to Kyoto

The Shot Bar Cantina
The Shot Bar Cantina
The Shot Bar Cantina
The Shot Bar Cantina
Kabukicho District
Kabukicho District

Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know About the Health Benefits of Music

Text by Dr. Nina Radcliff, Feature photo by Kimberly Cecchini

“Alex, I’ll go with Art Forms for $1000.”

Question: Shedding tears of joy, the desire to rhythmically move your body, and bringing people together are brought about by this art form.

Answer: What is music?

Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know About the Health Benefits of Music

Music has the ability to describe places, people, movies, and feelings in ways that words cannot fully capture. Scientifically speaking, music has real, demonstrable effects on our brains—melodies and tunes can increase Dopamine levels. What’s Dopamine? It’s the ‘happy’ chemical that is released when you are exposed to something positive—it reinforces behaviors and encourages you to seek out more of whatever caused the Dopamine release. Other examples of times when this chemical is released in your brain include: when you eat foods you enjoy, see someone you love, or have sex. It is a chemical that acts on the reward system in your brain, so clearly, as far as science is concerned, music is good for you!

Research has even shown that listening to music can have positive effects on the way you learn as well as your physical and mental health.

Learning. Music has been shown to engage many of the same areas of the brain that are involved in language processing, memory, and other critical thinking skills that are necessary for academic success. One study showed that students who participated in music programs scored 63 points higher on the verbal and 44 points higher on the math sections of the SATs compared to students with no music participation. So, maybe your kid’s addiction to Spotify isn’t the worst thing after all!

Heart healthy. Eating your vegetables and engaging in exercise are not the only way you can keep your ticker ticking. Researchers have shown that listening to music brings about a feeling of joy that is linked to the dilation of blood vessels. This corresponds to a decrease in blood pressure and the amount of work that the heart must perform.

Anxiety. Rhythms go back to the womb where babies hear their mother’s heart beating and her lungs breathing. They are both natural and life-sustaining sounds. In fact, pediatricians often recommend replicating these sounds to soothe a baby or get them to fall sleep. Thus, it is no surprise that listening to and playing music decreases levels of cortisol–a “fight or flight” stress hormone–even in adolescents and adults. This introduces the potential to use music in situations where previously we had to resort to drugs.

Patient care. Hospitals and healthcare settings have begun to appreciate how music can be soothing to patients where they may feel they have lost control from their external environment. It can create a calm, personal atmosphere and block out some of the disturbances that surround them. One study showed that listening to music before surgery may be more effective than drugs when it comes to reducing anxiety. What’s the science behind this? Music may cause neurons in brain stem—a primitive part of the brain—to sync with the beat. A slow beat leads to relaxation.

Exercise. Wanna run faster? Then put on your MP3 player. Music has been shown to increase physical endurance by as much a 15%! It helps decrease the perception of effort during exercise as well as increase energy efficiency. This may be due to the “feeling state” that music brings about. Even though you are working out at a very high intensity you are feeling more positive.

Does classical, hip-hop, country, or the blues work best? As a general rule of thumb, if you want to relax, consider songs with slower tempo and fewer key changes. If you are trying to increase your endurance during exercise, consider a faster tempo to increase your stride. However, just like some people prefer pizza to hamburgers, it depends on your individual preference and experience. If you grew up with rock & roll you may find it both relaxing as well as uplifting. Alternatively, certain songs or genres may be associated with unpleasant experiences or memories and fail to provide the benefits that have been discussed.

You do not have to be Beethoven or major in music to experience the benefits of music. In addition to bringing about the same joys you feel when you eat your favorite meal, music can help enhance building blocks to learning, keep you calm, and improve your health. So, crank up your speakers, and start rocking out to whatever tunes makes you smile today!

For more news on Dr. Radcliff:
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Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.

 

Ariana Grande- My Everything (My Jumping The Shark Moment)

Written by Joe K.

This is a test……this is only a test.

Ever since I started writing music reviews, I have stuck to music genres within my realm of interest. So in an attempt to spread my wings, I decided to write about something not in my wheelhouse. (If I am anything, it’s adventurous..just ask my boss @tonight at dawn). Today’s poor victim, aside from the readers, is Ariana Grande.

Ariana Grande’s name has been almost everywhere this past summer, which made me at least strangely curious.  Knowing full well what her musical type was, I decided to listen.  While I am not the biggest pop fan in existence, there are some songs from pop artists that I would actually say I like, but never an entire album. {OK, deep breath, Joe…you can do this}.

First, the positives (or near-positives):

1- This girl can sing really well.  She certainly can hold her own against a Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, or any others in that field.  This ballad heavy album showcases her singing abilities.

2- Hip-hop, R&B, dance and pop, are all well represented here.  If you like this type of music, there is plenty for you to enjoy; “Hands On Me” and “Break Free” comes to mind {Oh boy, might as well turn in your MAN CARD, big guy..}

3- The lyrics here are not terrible. Sure, they touch on all the anticipated notes (love lost, love found, breaking away from that loser of a boyfriend, and then falling right back into his arms), but it’s not downright bad.

4- {WAY too many positives here, Joe, someone might think you like this…} I do like the first single, “Problem“.  Sure, its predictable and comes complete with the typical candy coated rap verse center, but its fun. {Ignore that light-headedness for a few more minutes, champ…you’re doing God’s work}

Having said all that…

It is just sooooo damn formulaic! {You sound surprised, pal}.   I could have pulled out a pop album checklist and have all the boxes filled in by track 4. Such as…

1. Half of the tracks have a featured hip-hop artist. By the way, can any rapper start their verses without calling out “Uh”, or “Yeah”?  (Check)

2. Other than some ‘sexed-up’ moments, everything on this album screams “SAFE,”-not that I expected anything daring. (Check)

3. Stellar production that rings empty of any real artistic merits (Check)

4. Single-driven tracks. Half of these songs are unnecessary..I don’t even know why pop starts make full albums anymore. (Check)

I could go on about how the constant genre jumping from track-to-track impacts the flow of the album, or how the noticeable lack of more upbeat, danceable tracks also slows this album down way too much, but let’s not be too picky 😉

And with that, you have a standard middle of the road pop album that legions of young girls will undoubtedly buy and worship for approximately 5 minutes before the next big thing arrives.

And breathe….

twitter: @KralTunes

Belly Up To The Bar With Joe Purdy- Eagle Rock Fire

Joe Purdy is as reliable as gravity; just as one will surely make you fall, the other will sing a song that will make you as depressed as any fictional Disney donkey could. Yes, country/folk star Joe Purdy is back with his 13th album (his first in almost 4 years), Eagle Rock Fire. The man used to be a machine when it came to spitting out albums, sometimes 3 a year, so expectations with this one might be raised a little with the extended recording vacation.

Being old reliable Joe, however, means that you are guaranteed a few things:

1-A tune about someone/something dying

2-One about old Joe meeting up with someone in a big city like NY or LA

3-A song about a broken heart and his lady leaving

4-A slew of lonely, dusty trail cowboy songs.

In fact, if a Joe Purdy album was made into a drinking game with these 4 expectations, no one would be conscious beyond the first half of the album. So let’s get our shit-kickers on, pour ourselves a whiskey (3 fingers; it’s Joe Purdy, after all) and get super, duper moody!

I am happy to say that lucky album 13 provides no surprises, as I like my Purdy dispirited and in the gutter.

Eagle Rock Fire” opens the album and the bottle with a broken heart-that’s #2 on the list- (as does “Good Gal Away”) and it’s complete with accompanying band and plenty of country twang to bring us all down. Songs like “L.A. Livin'” and “This American” all feed off of classic Purdy concepts like a love lost or making it in the big city singing his little ditties.

That Diamond Ring” and “Ba Girl” (2 #4’s!) touch on traditional country themes of drinking and loneliness, but they hit a slightly playful tone both musically and lyrically. I laughed when I heard “Happy songs don’t always tell the truth about the living hell that a woman sometimes brings…” on “Ba Girl” (preach on, good sir!!!). This track might be he highlight of the album; it’s a bittersweet tune about how all the women he meets are destined to drift in different directions.

The album ends fairly strong with “I’m Sorry You’re Blue” and “Wildflowers” -the latter of which you can slam your tumbler down on the table if your not yet slumped on it instead (I hope your keeping score out there!).

Quite predictably, Joe’s harmonica colors several songs on this album, but effectively, as per usual. The backing band plays it straight country; plenty of slide guitars and twang, with some piano and banjo thrown in for good measure. They add the necessary atmosphere to these songs, but do not overdo it, as these are, as in traditional Purdy, fragile songs.

In the end, this is typical Joe; sometimes hopeful, but mostly dire lyrics paired with melancholy rhythms. Eagle Rock Fire is every Purdy fan’s dream and worthy of the already existing catalog.

As an added bonus, we got a song about L.A. & N.Y., so take two shots!!

Joe K. (twitter: @KralTunes)

Some more Purdy goodness:

Brown Shoes And Cadillacs

It’s All The Same

New Music King of New Orleans: Benjamin Booker

To these ears, newcomer Benjamin Booker sounds like 25 year old working on a 45 year smoking habit.  On his debut album, the New Orleans native harkens back to the days when Southern roots rock was king, packing in plenty of the bluesy twang, gospel, and guitar tones that Jack White loves so much. Benjamin Booker leaves us with a reminder the glorious the past of rock and roll.

Opener “Violent Shiver” is the best vehicle to showcase that rich musical past.  The ‘toe-tapability’ of this tune is almost too much for lil ole me to handle.  Between the pounding drums, the ‘ooh, ooh, oooh’s’ and killer chorus, I was out of breath by the time the song ended.  And while no other song really excels past this point of pure joy, several come close enough to make that track sweat it out a bit.

The album as a collective touches on all those elements of that bygone era; one minute Ben and his crew can bring the raucous in the grand fashion of Chuck Berry (“Wicked Waters“, “Have You Seen My Son?“), then steer you right into a rockabilly swagger (“Chippewa”) and mere moments later have you mournfully reaching for the whiskey bottle (“I Thought I Heard You Screaming”, “By The Evening”).  Booker spreads his musical wings on tracks like “Have You Seen My Son?”, a pseudo rock-opera complete with ‘Tremé’ like drum beats and epic 70’s guitar riffage.  Whatever your mood, these songs are so much fun that they’ll leave you smilin’.

Booker’s voice is the real focal point on this album.  His harsh baritone almost has you wincing and empathetically reaching for your own throat.  His raspy instrument is most affective when he needs to portray fragility, which he does exceptionally on tracks like closer “By The Evening”.

He plays the type of music that your parents always told you was ‘good music’, and not that ‘crap’ you blasted from your stereo. And in this ONE moment, they may have been right (although, dad, I’ll deny that I ever said it).

Joe K. (Twitter: @KralTunes)