Monday, March 29, 2010

Music Monday: Easy Star All-Stars

The EasyStar All-Stars are a reggae collective with a rotating cast of singers and musicians from New York's reggae, ska, jazz, and dub scene. Using their musical skills and reggae roots, they transform (already good) popular albums into something a little more dub. Their first album, Dub Side of the Moon, was a reggae re-imagining of Pink Floyd's classic album. Not just a remake, the All-Stars' version stands on its own as the rare homage worthy of the album it reflects. Here is their version of the song "Money"(just audio):

The next album they made was "Radiodread", a reggae take on various Radiohead songs, adding a new element of fun and danceability to some awesomely dour tunes. Here, their take on "No Surprises" from OK Computer:

The most recent Easy Star All-Stars project takes on the Fab Four with their Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band. They play with a bunch of friends on this one who are pretty well known in their own right. Here, their "Getting Better" with The Mighty Diamonds:

Listening to the Easy Dub All-Stars is a new and fun way to rock out to your favorite songs, and their live shows are ridiculously fun. Look here for tour dates and at their website for more info, merchandise, and videos!

Monday, March 22, 2010

And the winner is. . .

We had to pick two winners, because we think both of these bands are awesome. Actually, we really dug all of your suggestions (except we aren't sure who this "Grateful Dead" band is), and are bummed that we can't carry all of their merchandise.

Winner number one, with an overwhelming majority vote:

Enter the Haggis! This Toronto Celtic rock band brings it like no other, with energetic performances and a unique sound that is ridiculously fun to dance to. Check out the video below if you haven't seen them yet:

Check out their web page where you can listen to more tunes and stay up-to-date on their touring schedule. It looks like the closest they are coming to us Mexicali Mainers in the near future is Lowell, Mass on April 8. It's only $10 and could be a fun road trip!

Also winning in the votes is Wilco!

photo by Guus Krol

We really hope you have heard Wilco! A Chicago band formed in 1994, they create awesome rock that is sometimes slightly country-fried, but in a good way. Check out Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, one of their best albums in a catalogue of solid goodness. Here's a cool music video where they are jumping out of an airplane! Also, their website will provide you with lots of photos, tour dates, and information; so check it out if you dig what they do!

Honorable mentions go to Jack Johnson and Michael Franti & Spearhead. These guys are great at making music and also have awesome and admirable takes on the world and how to make a difference in it. As in 2008, Jack Johnson will donate 100% of his tour profits to charity. He also contributed to the Best of Bonnaroo album at Music for Action, an organization dedicated to passing a new Climate bill (read about it further down this here!). You can visit his website here.

The music of Michael Franti & Spearhead is indisputably inspiring, without ever being schmaltzy. His lyrics are able to lift you up even when he is singing something sad, and the rhythms and tunes themselves add a whole other element of joyfulness and soul. Here's his website.

We love all these bands/musicians, and we also love you for voting for your favorites! Keep your eyes peeled for Enter the Haggis and Wilco merchandise arriving in our stores and on the web soon!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Music Monday: Artistry Beyond the Tunes, Part 2

Here are some of the coolest music videos out there (we think so, anyway)!

Sugarcube by Yo La Tengo

There, There by Radiohead:

Sabotage by the Beastie Boys:

Pass the Dutchie by Musical Youth:

All Caps by Madvillain:

Move Your Feet by Junior Senior:

The Hardest Button to Button by The White Stripes:

Learn to Fly by the Foo Fighters:

Thriller by Micheal Jackson:
(We hope you have already seen this one, but if not, you must. Immediately.)

Also, Let Forever Be by the Chemical Brothers has an awesome video, but we were not able to embed it. View it here instead.

We would love to know what you thought about these videos and what your own favorites are!

Music Monday: Artistry Beyond the Tunes, Part 1

This week, we thought we would show you another side of musical acts: awesome videos and hilariously terrible album covers!

First up, what happens when things go awry.

Stay tuned for awesome music videos, coming up next!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Music for Action: Take Action on Climate Change, Download Bonnaroo Music

photo by Gilbert R., via Flickr

In June, the House of Representatives passed legislation to cut global warming pollution, build a clean energy economy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Now it is up to the Senate to pass a similar bill and more than a dozen Senators have yet to say how they will vote. In this period of deliberation, it is extremely important for all of us citizens to take action.

Headcount and the NRDC Action Fund have teamed up with Phish, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Wilco, The Decemberists, Jack Johnson, and more to offer a free "Best of Bonnaroo" compilation to those who will send an email to their local senators encouraging them to vote yes on this bill. These are really awesome recordings that aren't available anywhere else, and a great perk to motivate us all to make our voices heard.

It is a ridiculously easy process that has the potential to achieve great results. Simply go to this page, where you will be prompted to enter your zip code so they know which senator to address it to. There is a prewritten email you can send, or you can choose to write your own. You do have to enter your name and address at the bottom, to show that you are a real person. Hit send, and you will receive a link to the free download.

Music Monday: The Brew

The Brew are a quartet from Amesbury, Massachusetts that cull their inspiration and influence from a variety of genres. Flowing from rock to funk to reggae to jazz, sometimes in a single song, these guys like to jam it out. Though their musical output is far from constant parody, they show off their sense of humor when they play, having a habit of playing old television theme songs (watch them play the Family Matters theme song here) and naming some of their own songs after favorite characters from said shows (their song, Stefon Erkel, performed in Starks, Maine).

If you're from New England and you're digging their sound, get psyched because they are constantly touring around these parts. Check out their touring calender to be in the loop as they add more dates to their schedule!

Visit their website for all manner of Brew news, pictures, videos, songs, and merchandise, including their newest album, Back to The Woods. Also, their Youtube page is filled with more live video, and some other goodies like their documentary on the making of Back to The Woods.

We like The Brew and hope you do as well!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Prayer Flags Explained!

When the tradition of hanging prayer flags began more than 2000 years ago, Tibet was ruled by warlords who carried their own flags into battle. The native people took this as their inspiration but spun the intent on its axis when they made their own flags to honor the nature gods of Bon, their shamanistic religion. They used five colors to represent the five elements: blue for sky or space, red for fire, green for water, and yellow for earth. They believed these flags would carry blessings on the wind to anyone nearby, so they took to hanging them over mountain passes and rivers to benefit all who passed underneath.

In the 7th century, Buddhism largely took the place of Bon, absorbing many of its characteristics including the flags, and bringing the new ideals of peace and compassion. The early prayer flags displayed both Buddhist prayers and pictures of the fierce Bon gods who they believed protected Buddha. Over the next 200 years, Buddhist monks began to print their own mantras and symbols on the flags as prayers for peace, prosperity, wisdom, and compassion to be sent out into the world with each breeze.

There are two types of prayer flags, those hung horizontally and those hung vertically, attached from a high place to the ground. Vertically hung prayer flags are known as Dar Cho, with "Dar" meaning to increase life, fortune, health, and wealth, and "Cho" representing all sentient beings.

The flags most commonly seen (as in the picture above) are typically hung horizontally, and are known as "Lung-ta" which translates into "Windhorse". The central image on each flag is often of a horse with three flaming jewels on its back, representing the Tibetan Buddhist trinity. This trinity consists of Buddha, the enlightened one; Dharma, the path of Buddhist teachings; and Sangha, the Buddhist monastic community. The Windhorse is meant to evoke power, subdue evil, and act as the vehicle of enlightenment.

There are several other creatures that are commonly seen on prayer flags.

There is the Senge, or snow lion, who symbolizes bravery.

Tag, the tiger, represents the strength one must possess to follow the Dharma and become enlightened.

Kyung is the destroyer of evil; he soars on a bed of clouds with flames emanating from his horns.

Finally, there is Druk the dragon, whose roar is said to cut through the fog of ignorance, which is the prime obstacle on the path to enlightenment.

The prayer flags may be hung indoors, but they are designed to be strung up outside where the wind will disperse their messages if you choose to do so. After some time the flags will fade and fray, symbolizing the natural passing of all things. It is believed that when prayer flags fade and blow away thread by thread, the prayers become a permanent part of the universe. Every time you look at prayer flags, let them remind you to continue to send out your own prayers for peace and kindness in the world. As you do so, you will benefit from their blessings as well.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Music Mondays: Beirut

Beirut was originally the solo music project of New Mexico native Zach Condon. Only 19 at the time, Condon recorded much of the first Beirut album, Gulag Orkestar, alone in his bedroom, playing all the instruments and then looping them over each other. He finished it in a proper studio with the help of Heather Trost (A Hawk and a Hacksaw) and Jeremy Barnes (Neutral Milk Hotel, A Hawk and a Hacksaw). With no official band, Condon recruited friends to be his backing band and set off on tour. The tunes combine elements of Eastern European and Balkan folk with Western pop music, often led and highlighted by Condon's ukulele, flugelhorn, and an emotionally nuanced voice that sounds wise beyond his years.

Beirut has four albums, including an EP, which you can preview and purchase at or your favorite record store.

Visit the Beirut website for more music, news, and other good stuff.