Monday, May 21, 2012

Self


If there was one music artist I've forced onto people more than any other, it would have to be Self.  The alter-ego of a single man named Matt Mahaffey, Self has been a solid mainstay in my music collection since the mid-90's.

"Marathon Shirt"

I was first introduced to Self way back in 1995 when I picked up a copy of the newly-released first album Subliminal Plastic Motives and became forever obsessed. I ended up lending it out to at least 3 other people, who then each bought their own copies and subsequently leant them out to their friends. The music was pretty quirky for the alt-rock-slash-grunge era of the time, so it very quickly drew comparissons to the music of Beck... although I tend to think Mahaffey is far more talented and brilliant, with a broader scope of taste and style.

"Lucid Anne"

I listened to that album essentially non-stop for a good year or so, before the second album The Half-Baked Serenade was released.  Unfortunately, it was only released through mail-order, so I ended up downloading it off the newly-popular internet.  Keep in mind that Windows 95 was brand new and not highly used, so this was back in the days of dial-up... No Napster and no high-speed connections, so it took me about a week to obtain that damn album. (I have since then obtained a legal copy, so shut up.)

"KiDdies"

Serenade was far more electronic-based than the first album, and due to the small release it's not very well-known... but there were some brilliant songs on there that have become known as "classic Self" songs.

"Microchip Girl"

Taking a bunch of left-over songs from the first two albums, Self released what may actually have been the first official "internet-only album" in 1997 called Feels Like Breakin' Shit.  He encouraged fans to make their own artwork for the album, and every track was free to download. Some of the songs were short joke songs that he never intended for release, while others fall into my opinion of the band's best songs ever.  It also contained the first real hint at Mahaffey's obsession with Prince.

"Let's Pretend We're Married"

While the first three albums were made almost entirely by Matt Mahaffey alone with occasional input from his brother Mike, the fourth album Breakfast With Girls found the occasional "guest" musicians from prior albums appearing in a much more "band-like" capacity.  Part of this was due to them having toured with Self as a backing band, but I have a feeling the move to a bigger record label played an even greater part.

"Kill The Barflies"

That damn album got delayed so many times that when it was finally released, nobody really knew it was out... A lot of fans were upset over something-er-rather, and I guess it didn't really get the best reviews.  Maybe people were just bitter for having to wait a few years, I don't know... but now it's well-regarded as being the high point in their career.  Personally, it's always been my favourite Self album, and listening to it just makes me happy.

"Uno Song"

Shortly after BWG, Matt released an album he had been working on for some time called Gizmodgery.  This actually might be their best-known album and is just known as "the toy album" to some people.

"Pattycake"

Gizmodgery was made entirely using toys and toy instruments purchased at, well... toy stores.  While it being an obvious gimmick that catches peoples attentions, the music itself stands on its own for being well-made and well-written.  In fact, there are plenty of times you would hardly guess there was anything different about this album at all. Another highlight to the Self catalog, this was the last fully official album to date.

"Resurrect"

That same year, Self released a few free EP's and another free internet album Selfafornia before starting work on the next big album.  During those next few years, Matt Mahaffey would also work on some music for movies such as Evolution, Shrek and Shrek 2, which makes a bit of sense considering their label at the time was DreamWorks...  When I tell people about Self, usually the first thing I point out is that they've likely heard the song running over the end credits to the first Shrek film.

"Stay Home"

The new album Ornament & Crime was slated to be released in 2003... then 2004... and then never.  Apparently when Universal acquired DreamWorks Records, they shelved the album indefinitely, and Matt was officially unable to release or even really talk about the album.  Looking like it will never officially by released, it's essentially the "lost" Self record.  Luckily, the album was leaked at some point by someone, and I'm not allowed to say if I have a copy or not, so don't ask unless it's in a private email.

"No One Knows You"

In the months leading up the eventual non-release of O&C, Self released a song a week to their website... songs that were not going to be on the album. This, combined with the restriction of the unreleased album, ended up forming yet another free internet album called Porno, Mint & Grime.

"Busy Sending Me"

Many fans (myself included) consider most/all of the 21 songs on this free album to be of a much higher quality than the songs on Ornament & Crime. This album is truly what makes Self so wonderful. Despite working on a proper album, he still finds a way to release some of his best music (and double the amount of it) to his fans for free.

"Breakdown"

In 2005, Self fans were saddened to hear about the passing of Matt's brother Mike Mahaffey, who was not only the only other original "member" of Self but also acted as Matt's personal musical inspiration growing up. Many people feared this was the end of Self for good, but recently Matt began work on a new studio and eventually started to release new music online.

"Could You Love Me Now?"

As of December of last year, work on a new album, tentatively titled Super Fake Nice, was underway and is very highly anticipated by us rabid Self fans. Let's hope this one can actually be released... and I'm especially hoping the quantity of songs will amount to yet another internet supplemental album.

"LA Radio"

If anyone is interested in obtaining any of the already-free music from me, feel free to contact me through email or my Google+ page

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Leon Redbone


Quite possibly less is known about Leon Redbone than any other musical artist ever.  His name is most likely fake, his origins are unknown, no family has ever come forward, and he rarely ever gives interviews...

"Lazy Bones"

He first appeared in Toronto in the 1970's, and I do mean appeared.  No knowledge of his life before that really exists, and the people he claims as his parents died well before what most likely was his birth-date. (Which is also unknown but guessed at.)  Redbone commonly claims to have written songs well-before his time, and his entire appearance and sound comes straight out of the Depression-era Tin-Pan Alley style.

Live Medley

Leon made many appearances throughout the first few seasons of Saturday Night Live, which really acted as the spring-board of his career.  Many rumours spread (and still abound) as to just who this man really was... including one (that I still cling to) that believes he was (and is) yet another character of performer Andy Kaufman's.  Despite Kaufman's (possibly fake) death, Leon Redbone has continued to perform live to this day, while still remaining as elusive as ever.

"Walking Stick" (Live)

I was lucky enough to see a show of his a few years back, dragging along a friend who was unfamiliar with Redbone's music.  The show was half-music , half-comedy and was something along the lines of a classic Vaudeville act.  His stage-setting over the years consists of simple lighting from a single old-fashioned lamp, a chair for Redbone to sit in, and an upright piano played by what one could call an "accomplice".  Despite being "low-tech" and rather simple, my friend (who frequents more modern concerts than I'd care to count) excitedly described it as being one of the "best shows [he'd] ever seen."  I would agree with him whole-heartedly, and I hope to catch Redbone live again someday.

Live Chat and Song

I love not only the mystery involved in Leon Redbone, but the music and mood is just fantastic.  There really is no other like him.  A truly under-appreciated genius whose legacy I plan to spread around for the rest of my life.

"Dancin' On Daddy's Shoes"

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Quicksilver Messenger Service


The choice for the letter Q was very simple... Partly because Quicksilver Messenger Service is the only artist/band under that letter in my collection, but mostly because I had them in mind when I came up with this whole "alphabetical" mumbo-jumbo.

"Pride of Man"

Many of you are familiar with the psychedelic Hippie scene of the 60's and particularly with bands that formed that scene.  San Francisco was a huge core of the music that came from the late 60's, and you have probably heard of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Santana... but I could probably count on one hand the number of people I have met that have ever heard of Quicksilver Messenger Service.

"Dino's Song"

Quicksilver was a major player in the Haight-Ashbury district, as far as musical influence goes, and performed frequently at the famous Filmore West theater.  Any time a band was needed on the bill as either an opening act or a headlining act, Quicksilver Messenger Service was thrown on... In fact, they performed so often at The Filmore that they were referred to as the theater's "house band."  I wouldn't be shocked at all to hear that they hold the record for the most times a band has played there, if that honour doesn't go to their contemporaries The Grateful Dead.

"Fresh Air" (Live)

I am not entirely sure how I started listening to this band, but I am fairly certain my mother talked me into buying a record of theirs from the local indie record store years ago.  I think I was probably about 15 or 16, looking for some good music to buy...  I know she was a fan growing up, so I'll just blame her.  Either way, I picked up a 2-LP greatest hits compilation and loved it.  As I am to do, I then went back a week or so later and bought a copy of every Quicksilver album the store had in stock... Then I started buying the CD's... You know how the story goes.

"The Fool"

The band pretty much epitomize the sound of the late 60's in every way, shape and form.  Their style developed over the years, veering further from "jam band" and closer to "folk rock" as time went on, occasionally incorporating more blue, classical and jazz elements... but they managed to keep a unique sound that separated them from the rest of their peers.

"Shady Grove"

Considering the huge, recent resurgence of popularity that psychedelic rock and hippie fashions have gained, it honestly surprises me that more people don't know about Quicksilver Messenger Service.  I guess it's up to me to spread it around...

"What About Me?" (Live)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Prodigy


I am purposefully avoiding both Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree for the letter P.  Instead, I am choosing to write about one of my favourite "big beat" techno bands, The Prodigy.

"Breathe"

The Prodigy was quite big for a while in the mid-90's, particularly between 1995 and 1999, but they had been a driving force in the underground electronic music genre as early as 1991.

"Out of Space"

The band's success came with the album Music For The Jilted Generation, which became a huge hit in the Anarchist rave scene.  This is the album most people know them for, and many times is all they are known for.  Good grief, if I haven't heard enough douchey hardcore wannabes spout out "Oh yeah, I love The Prodigy. I have like six copies of Jilted Generation, bro."

"Poison"

Their other "we only know one (or two) albums by this band" album was 1997's The Fat of The Land, which brought their most controversial song "Smack My Bitch Up" which also won MTV's pick for most controversial video.  I'll agree, that title was probably well-earned... but it, and a couple other singlse, also over-shadowed the rest of the album.

"Diesel Power"

Now I get to talk about the Microsoft Windows ME of The Prodigy! In 2002, the band released a one-off single after a five-year wait, with the hint of an up-coming album.  The single "Baby's Got A Temper" was a fairly decent radio and sales hit, but it came and went... and pretty much sounded like every other single the band had released prior to it all wrapped up in one.

"Baby's Got A Temper"

I guess the vocalist/dancer (yes, the band employed dancers) Keith Flint and the main DJ/producer Liam Howlett had one hell of a falling out over the track, which Howlett stated he "didn't own", resulting in Flint leaving (or getting kicked out of?) the band.  Any work done for the supposed album was scrapped, all acknowledgement of the single was basically wiped under the table, and a couple years later a very, very, VERY different-sounding Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned was released.

"Girls"

That album had a bit of success, but not quite as much as the prior two... Most critics panned it as not sounding enough like Jilted Generation or Fat Of The Land, but that was what I liked the most about it.  Speaking as a fan, I didn't (and don't) want just another re-hashing of their popular stuff.  That was the problem we all had with Baby's Got A Temper, and Always Outnumbered fixed a lot of that.

"Spitfire"

After yet another five-year wait, Invaders Must Die was released to rather favourable reviews.  It marked the return of Keith Flint, although in a far smaller capacity than before... and the album shows that the band's sound can properly grow and develop with the times.

"Invaders Must Die"

I personally enjoyed this album even more than the last... well actually, this may be my favourite album by The Prodigy.  Yeah, it's definitely my favourite...

"Omen"

The Prodigy is apparently working on a new album; hopefully this one won't take half-a-decade to finish.  Personally, I could just listen to them non-stop for weeks on end, so any new music or remixes to add to my collection is greatly appreciated.

"Narayan"