16 April 2021

16 April 2021 - POWERS - Dance

POWERS is a band that has not gotten a ton of attention.  I hope to change that today.

Their Wikipedia page is very sparse, but here's what I have been able to find out about the band:

1) Their two principle members, Mike Del Rio and Crista Ru, started off as songwriters for other artists, and they have a number of Wicked Guilty Pleasures to their credit.  

2) The duo got their big break when they appeared on a single with The Knocks - we'll have to feature that here sometime, but today, I wanted to give them their due.

3) Their music has been described in many multi-adjective ways.  I won't add to that pile.  I will say that a male/female vocal duo that shares the duties so evenly and so well is rare, refreshing, and energetic.  

4) They slay live.  

15 April 2021

15 April 2021 - Don Dixon - Praying Mantis

We have talked about Don Dixon a little as a producer on his blog.  But he's a musician, too, and one worthy of Wicked Guilty Pleasures.

This song, from the 1985 album Most of the Girls Like to Dance but Only Some of the Boys Like To, served as Don Dixon's debut as a musician - he had already produced some of R.E.M.'s early albums - and, let's face it.... it's a little odd. 

I grew up in Connecticut, where the praying mantis is the state insect, so we learned a little bit about them..... but for the rest of the country, this song, which got a fair amount of MTV airplay, was an education on the mating habits of the praying mantis.  Yes, it's accurate.  

Dixon is still performing.  Here he is, performing this classic, in 2017, with his wife Marti Jones supporting him on guitar and Grammy award winner (for this) Jon Carroll on keyboard.

14 April 2021

14 April 2021 - Five for Fighting - Superman (It's Not Easy)

This is a song I don't expect to enjoy. And yet, I do.  

Five For Fighting is named for the penalty given in hockey (and is a penalty I never got in my years playing hockey, because I avoided fighting on the ice.  Not a fan.)

Five For Fighting is also the stage name of John Ondrasik, This Grammy-nominated song from from 2002 was his biggest hit - and has a pretty interesting subject.  The titular narrator of the song is, of course, the famous DC Comics superhero, talking about how surprisingly hard his life is.  You wouldn't think empathy for the Man of Steel would result in an a moving hit song, but yet, it did.  

13 April 2021

13 April 2021 - The Flaming Lips - She Don't Use Jelly

In 1993, I can tell you that I thought the Flaming Lips were a fun novelty band that wouldn't endure.  Especially on the strength of this song, which to this day remains the bands biggest radio hit, if not their most recognizable song anymore.  

Boy, was I wrong.  Led by Wayne Coyne, the Lips have proven to be an interesting and inventive band who really respects, honors, and relishes its loyal fans.   Plus, the band is chock-full of excellent musicians who have all contributed both to the Flaming Lips catalog and other artists who might have once palled around with a blue dog.  

Lyrically, this song is goofy.  Musically - it's catchy and uplifting and fun and rich.  

If you doubted me in how much the band respects their fans, this 2013 performance of the song, which is highly interactive, should illustrate that.  There are fans on stage.  They are playing with the crowd, who are singing along.

12 April 2021

12 April 2021 - The Knocks ft. Foster The People - All About You

If you've been reading Totally Covered today, you know that we featured three tracks from the Knocks ft. Foster The People EP Melody and Silence.

As you may have guessed, this is track 4, which is the single.  It is both melancholic and uplifting.  Musically, The Knocks have always had a distinctive electronic sound.  Adding Mark Foster to the mix  - with whom they've collaborated in the past, and it shows - adds depth to an already rich, deep song.  

My plea to you: go encourage your local radio station to play this song.  The way music like this gets made is if music like this is supported.    

09 April 2021

9 April 2021 - DMX - X Gon' Give It To Ya

Earl Simmons was born in Westchester County, and died in Westchester County this morning.

You knew him better as DMX.  He was a groundbreaking artist, gone too soon.

DMX is still the only artist to have five consecutive albums debut at #1 on the Billboard album charts.  A lot of hip hop artists before him chose accessible or angry forms of the music.  His success showed that an artist can reach both.  

He will be missed.  He leaves a large catalog of music behind, perhaps none better known than this song.

9 April 2021 - The Wiggles - Fruit Salad / The Wiggles ft. James Harkness, Jawan Jackson, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robert Rakete, Taylor Symone & Victor Valdes - We're All Fruit Salad

We don't normally cover children's music here on Wicked Guilty Pleasures, especially when it wasn't music we grew up with.  

The Wiggles made sure we made an exception for them, especially since we've now featured them twice in the last month on Totally Covered.  If you didn't read yesterday's Totally Covered post, I strongly encourage you to do so.

This song, one of the signature Wiggles songs, first appeared on their 1994 album Yummy Yummy, so this version, from one of their many videos, features the classic, original Wiggles lineup.  The song is earnest and inoffensive, and at the same time, teaches kids how to make a fruit salad.

Of course, the Wiggles are known for their live shows, too, and they do perform this song live, A LOT.  You'll be happy to know that I listened to this song A LOT when I was writing this.  I know definitively how to make a fruit salad now.  This version, complete with a lot of dancing fruit, is from 2011 and their 20th Anniversary concert.

In 2013, the Wiggles changed, with only Anthony Field remaining from the original lineup.  At that time, the modern lineup, with Lachlan Gillespie, Simon Pryce, and Emma Watkins debuted, and they've been quite popular with the modern kids.  The original educational theory, 

But the history of the Wiggles endures, and, rather than just tritely talking about bananas, apples and grapes, the Wiggles did something a little different to celebrate their 30th anniversary.  They celebrated the concept that we're all like fruit salad, in the same bowl... while still acknowledging that fruit salad is, indeed, yummy yummy.  It is truly a delicious tribute to the times we in which we live.

When the Wiggles (along with a couple of OG Wiggles) appeared on Triple J's "Like A Version" to perform, well, yesterday's Totally Covered post, they also performed their new song, live.  Emma did not play drums this time.  

08 April 2021

8 April 2021 - Tame Impala - Elephant

Sometimes, a song is so mind-blowing and transcendent that I have to drop everything and reschedule posts just to make sure I fit them into these blogs as soon as possible. 

This 2013 song from Australian psychedelic band Tame Impala is not that song.  It is, however, a great song, that combines blues and psychedelic elements with a fantastic guitar riff that defies understanding.  One of Kevin Parker's oldest songs, it was pulled out and recorded in 2013, and ended up being one of the band's most successful songs.  

Lyrically, the song is a bit naughty - the trunk of the elephant is clearly metaphoric-  and not just a tribute to Death From Above 1979 - and, for that reason, Kevin Parker found the song "shallow", but it isn't.  It's rich and deep and sultry, a musical and lyrical journey.

(Also, when you go over to Totally Covered and see who sings about "shakin' his big grey trunk for the hell of it", your jaw is going to hit the floor.)

Here is the band playing an extended version of the song, readily admitting how appropriate the song is for getting "down and dirty."  

07 April 2021

7 April 2021 - DJ Khaled ft. Cardi B & 21 Savage - Wish Wish

DJ Khaled is a very humble man.

But in this song, 21 Savage and ESPECIALLY Cardi B steal the show.  Between the two of them, there is not a single low moment - no down time, no pause - in this song.  And yet, the song does not feel rushed. 

To his credit, Khaled is happy to give the spotlight to artists he clearly respects.  This is the second time he had collaborated with each of them.

The three featured artists co-wrote the song with producer Tay Keith.  "Wish Wish" peaked at #19 on the US pop charts.

06 April 2021

6 April 2021 - Phantogram - Running From The Cops

I felt like this excellent tune, from the Phantogram album Eyelid Movies, is an appropriate post in a week when Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for his part in the death of George Floyd in police custody.

That's as political as we are going to get with this post.  

Clearly, the protagonist in this song - sung by Josh Carter and not Sarah Barthel - is not a fan of the cops.  Neither is the guy who made the video, Naje Lataillade, who very much thought through the imagery used.  In Naje's words:
"...a sexy police woman comes into frame and gives chase to the crowd. The hipster wearing the PHANTOGRAM shirt is scared for his life. As we watch, we think, "Oh I get it, the song is called 'Running From The Cops'", but there is only one cop, not plural cops. Well, here in Brooklyn, cops equal pigs. So the next character to come out is a freak with a pig nose, dressed in all pink, carrying a bottle of swine flu. He looks angry and like he wants to raise hell. This explains why the people in the beginning were wearing medical masks, as he's spraying the swine flu everywhere. Even the cop is running from because swine flu kills 'pigs'."

The video is mostly in black in white, but there are splashes of blue and red/pink in the black and white.  Those two colors are what are required to make a phantogram, the technology you may have seen in your 3D glasses of the 1980s.

It is interesting to watch the performance of this song from 2009.  It is a song that is not only performed, but constructed and looped, synthesized to the nth degree to create something noisy and chaotic and beautiful.  Second note:  they're both multiinstumental.

With a fuller band, like they had in 2014, the song is still chaotic, but less electronic and looped, and more direct.  If you happen to have one of those old pairs of 3D glasses, now might be a good time to put them on.

05 April 2021

5 April 2021 - St. Vincent - Los Ageless / The Melting of The Sun

Even though we've featured Annie Clark here before - yes, Scott beat me to St. Vincent just like he beat me to Lights - it's likely none of you know who she is.  

Or, at least, until you watched Saturday Night Live this weekend, right?  Full disclosure, I'm writing this the day BEFORE she's scheduled to appear, and I didn't know about it until I started doing research for this post.  In fact, because I discovered that fact, I moved this post to Monday.  You deserve instant gratification.

It's a shame it took SNL to bring her to your attention, but here we are. Her music is poppy yet dark.  Her 2017 album MASSEDUCATION is a revelation of sorts. This song, the second single from that album, is a commentary on the culture of Los Angeles, purposefully layered on top of distorted guitar and synth lines.   

It's somewhat easy to lose the message in the synth of the song, but in 2018, St. Vincent released an piano version of the album, calling it MassEducation - see what she did there?  She also performed the song live in an acoustic guitar version - here's an example of that. Notice how she retains the desperation of the third verse, even with a sparser accompaniment.   

If you are here to hear the song St. Vincent performed on SNL this weekend, here it is.  Her new album, Daddy's Home, is due to be released May 14th, and, since it's the first since MassEducation, we're pretty excited for it.

02 April 2021

2 April 2021 - Urge Overkill - Sister Havana

I promise you I didn't intend to wean you off of a month of Canadian music with back-to-back 1993 songs by Chicago bands.  

It just happened this way.  

What also just happened on the whole Saturation album was that Nash Kato, who wasn't the band's normal lead vocalist, sang lead vocals.  I wasn't a huge fan of the band before this album, so it was a good thing for me....

01 April 2021

1 April 2021 - The Smashing Pumpkins - Today

Welcome back to the the United States.  

As your reward, here's the power ballad 2nd single from the Smashing Pumpkins' epic 1993 album, Siamese Dream.  I remember sitting with my girlfriend (at the time) watching them perform this song on SNL.  They were becoming a big deal then.  I didn't think I'd be talking about this band nearly thirty years later.  

But here I am, and it remains one of my favorite song by the band.