Monday, April 26, 2010

Music Monday: Ukulele Yeehaw!

If you aren't familiar with this cool little music-maker, the ukulele is a small guitar-like instrument with four strings. They are fun to play, supremely portable, and are a fairly easy instrument to transition to if you play the guitar. One of the things we like best about ukuleles is that their toy-esque sound creates an interesting juxtoposition when used to play sorrowful songs, or songs that we are used to hearing in a different arrangement.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain really rocks well-known songs in a unique way. This all-singing, all-strumming group created the Ukulele Orchestra in 1985 as a joke, but instantly sold out their first show and have been playing together ever since. Check out their awesome cover of the "Shaft" theme song:

Another large group of Uke players being creative with covers are the Ooks of Hazzard, who describe their band as "seven swinging ukuleles, one bad*ss accordion, and one drumset stuffed in a cajon." Here, they give an entirely different flavor to MGMT's "Kids":

Hawaiian Ukulele legend Jake Shimabukuro plays the uke in mindblowing fashion. He began with his first ukulele lesson when he was four, and it shows, with his crazy fast fingerpicking and completely unique style. He composes his own songs (like this amazing flamenco piece "Let's Dance"), and honestly they are like nothing we've ever heard before. Here he covers George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps":

Visit his website here for more goodness.

Hooray for the ukulele and the musicians who make them sing!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Music Monday: Best Free Ways to Discover Music Online

Whether you're tired of the music you always listen to or want to add some variety to your next mixtape, discovering a new band that you really dig is always an awesome feeling! The internet is a perfect place to find pretty much anything, but if you don't know what you are looking for you can get lost for hours. So, here below are several cool and convenient ways to find new tunes!

Tune Glue is a user-friendly "music map", in which you type the name of an artist you enjoy, and it suggests six more based on that. You can keep clicking away and it will reccommend more and more bands. Some band names allow you to click on them for a small bio, but in general once you see a name that strikes your fancy, you have to seek it out yourself (see below for the best ways to do that).

A couple of other sites that work using the same concept (recommendations of artists similar to those you already like) are Music Map, Bloson, and Music Roamer.

Say you are wanting to branch out from your usual tastes, however, and aren't seeking music similar to that you already listen to. Music blogs are a great place to find bands and even genres you had no idea existed. The Hype Machine searches music blogs for the best in music reviews and blog posts that contain mp3 files to stream or download. Music on the Hype Machine can be browsed in many different ways. One way that this blogger likes to use it is typing in a band I like, and seeing what else the bloggers that have mentioned that band have going on on their page. These tunes are usually not sonically similar, but sometimes rock in their own way! Try it; you'll like it!

There are also cool blogs like One Track Mind that make it easy for bands to share their tunes by submitting them for review to the site. Each song is accompanied by a blog post about the artist, and you can also download the mp3 for free, and rate the song. The ratings are reflected in three criteria: originality, repeat listen potential and overall verdict.

Once you've found some new music that you think you might like, ifyou weren't able to listen to it during your search there are several options available to you. You can listen to clips of most songs on Amazon, return to the Hype Machine and seek it out there, go to the artists' websites, or use Lala. I personally think Lala is the coolest musical internet thing ever! You can listen to any song once for free (and they have quite a large selection), and then there are really low prices if you want to buy songs or albums in mp3 or CD form. The only downside is that you do have to register to use Lala, but it is quick and relatively painless (no credit card information or address needed).

Now get out there and find some new music to love!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Music Monday: Hot Day at the Zoo

A high-energy quartet from Lowell, Massachusetts, Hot Day at the Zoo mixes ragtime, folk, blues and jazz with rocking bluegrass for a listening and concert experience that is good times all around. They call their eclectic musical style "zoograss", and that is also the title of their newest album. Lead singer Michael Dion brings the vocals with an energetic yowl, while the rest of the guys rock backup vocals, banjo, mandolin, and the upright bass. If you like Yonder Mountain String Band, Bela Fleck,or the Avett Brothers, these guys have a somewhat similar sound, so you should give them a listen!

Here's a clip of Hot Day At the Zoo playing at Harry Brown's Farm in Starks, Maine, where they will be playing at his two upcoming festivals as well:

Below you will find their upcoming tour dates; perhaps we will see you at some of these shows!

standalone player

Monday, April 5, 2010

Music Monday: Reggae Fest

Every year around this time, downhill winter sports and the rasta state of mind converge to create one of the most fun times to be had at the mountain: Reggae Fest at Sugarloaf! Coming the weekend after next, from the 15th to the 18th, it is possibly THE most awesome time to go skiing or snowboarding each year! Free music on the slopes by day and in the bars by night, reggae rolling out of speakers on the lift towers as you ascend, and all kinds of funky drinks (like jello shots in giant syringes, for some reason) abound! We highly recommend that you save the drinking until after your day of skiing, as the combination of the two can easily go awry.

All music during the day on Saturday and Sunday is free and open to all ages. These bands include Mighty Mystic, Trumystic, Jsan & the Analogue Sons, TOSH-1 (son of Peter Tosh), and Ila Mawana.

Here is Tosh-1 performing "Legalize it":

Headlining bands playing at night are Inner Circle(Fun Fact: Inner Circle sings, "Bad Boys", which many of you probably recognize as the theme song from the show Cops), Kenyatta Hill, and TOSH-1, all of whom will be playing inside with tickets required, as well as a valid ID showing that you are over 21.

Whether you can get up there for the whole weekend or just a day trip, it is a unique event that is always a great time. Gather all your buddies, prepare to rock out to the music, and be confident in the trail conditions, as the good folks at Sugarloaf always make lots of snow for this event! We hope to see you there!

More information here.