The World’s Smartest Accordion

I can play damn near anything with a keyboard. Pianos, organs, melodicas, harpsichords, keytars, celestes, digital keyboards, synths, and whatever. If you play it via black and white keys, I can play it.

Except the accordion.

Don’t get me wrong, I can get the basics of a song out of the damn thing, but it’s like walking and chewing gum. Trying to keep both hands going, in time, with a rhythm, keeping a melody, all the while pumping the bellows in a manner to keep the air flowing in a controlled manner? Nope. I’d be better off trying to play bagpipes, because there’s less to do.

It’s funny how the Web can take you down little rabbit holes and tangents. A few days back, I was searching for something about Weird Al Yankovic and came across this video. It’s a demo and promo for the Roland FR-8x-V, an accordion that’s more like a digital keyboard than the thing you’d listen to in an Italian bistro. Apparently, Weird Al himself uses this accordion on stage and in production and it’s not hard to see why. The host, and performer, is wonderful and she’s a fantastic musician and she’ll guide you through this things many features.

First, it’s an accordion. Second, it’s actually four accordions because it’s a French, Italian, Jazz, and Cajun accordion. I’m sure that, in a pinch, it’ll do German just as well and thus it could be considered five accordions. It’s got a slew of voices so it’s also a piano, bass guitar, orchestra, steel drum, and more. You can even use it Zen Drum-like and have percussion going on one hand while you play the melody on the other. It has MIDI hookups, on-board sequencing, the ability to load new voices from the Roland Library, and of course you can plug it into an amp or theatre PA system.

I mean, I’m not even a huge fan of accordion music, but I have to say, I’m impressed. This thing has every single feature my keyboards do, including a couple extras since they’re specific to an accordion.

Accordions grew up, joined the digital world, and actually became kinda awesome. Who knew?

And if that doesn’t trip your trigger, here’s a pair of twins (for twins tend to come in pairs) singing a German ditty, playing accordions, and rollerblading. I don’t even know where to go with that. Had it been me, I’d have skated out, made the first turn and ate most of that accordion along with some of the floor as I went sliding under some table, leaving a blood trail behind me littered with the wreckage of a once perfectly good accordion.

Cherished. Smooth. Sade.

Sade has to be one of the most underrated singers of our time. Sure, she’s fairly well known but if someone were to ask you to name a soul singer, or an R&B singer… would Sade be the first name you think of?

Oddly enough, Sade is actually the name of the musical ensemble, the project if you will. Helen Folasade Adu happens to be the lead singer of that group. It’s kind of like how Air Force One is whatever airplane the President happens to be on, the members of Sade can rotate in and out, but the group that she’s fronting is Sade.

I have to confess that, for a long time, I pronounced it “sahd” as in “Marquis de,” but you have to remember that this was a time before the Internet. For some reason, the radio station that often played her music rarely announced who they played or who was coming up later in the hour. They just hopped from one song to another, occasionally doing weather and station identification, and then the commercials, before dropping back into the music. There’s still a song or two from that station where I only remember the melody and haven’t the faintest idea what the tune was.

Oh well….

When I first laid eyes on Sade, I fell head over heels for her. I’d heard her singing on the radio, but when I saw a music video on MTV (Back when they played music videos, so I’m dating myself here.) it was a magical moment. I had pictured this woman in my head and, other than the length of her hair, my mental image was mostly correct. The hair? I’d given her a shorter style. I don’t know what that says about the effect of her voice upon me, but I’ve been a lifelong fan ever since. I would listen to Sade sing the phone book, and that’s not an exaggeration.

When I saw some video of her live performances, I noticed that she and I share a quirk in performance. I don’t get on a stage very often these days, maybe once or twice a year and usually for a small audience. When I do, no matter if I’m playing keyboard, bass, drums, or congas; I’m almost always barefoot. For me, it’s a matter of comfort and feeling. If I’m playing drums, I can better control the kick and high-hat pedals with bare feet because I can feel them far better than I can wearing sneakers. Beyond that, if I’m playing bass or keyboards, I can feel the beat through the floor.

She has her own reasons, I’m sure. Maybe they’re similar to mine or maybe it’s something from her Yoruba heritage. I don’t know. All I know is that she’s magical, and here she is doing two of my favourite songs.

From the Days of the Demoscene

The demoscene isn’t gone, it’s just a bit more underground than it ever was to begin with. After all, the demoscene itself grew out of piracy and bragging screens where a given group would take credit for the cracked programme you were installing on your computer. It soon caught on that you didn’t have to pirate a programme to see a stunning audiovisual presentation on your computer.

So when you dig on this video you might think, “Wow, they did some amazing things with the Commodore 64 back then!” And you’d be right, except that this video was made in 2010. Just like the classic 8 bit sound of chiptunes, the demoscene brings the visual side of retro to the forefront. I love this kind of thing, and hope you dig it too.

Homer, Jethro, and the Funny Musician

I was a pretty fortunate kid. See, when I was growing up I had access to a really decent record player and a large collection of my parents’ vinyl. My parents are to be totally credited with my, um, shall we say “eclectic“? Yes, my eclectic taste in music. My dad is from North Carolina and had a massive collection of bluegrass albums while my mom had a taste for rock and doo wop. They both have wonderful senses of humour so they had some comedy albums too.

And it was there I began.

Continue reading

The Russians Are Coming

Back in the day, when the Discovery Channel was fairly new, they actually showed a decent variety of documentaries. This was before it went through its “24 Hour Hitler Channel” phase and long before the “Shark Week” bullshit and we won’t even go into the mermaids and ancient aliens thing.

Seriously, Discovery, what the hell?

Continue reading

Kaki King – Bowen Island

For me, I discovered Kaki King during a late night bout of insomnia, flipping through channels and eventually landing on MTV2. There was a time that MTV2 was like the original MTV in that it showed music videos. Last I checked, it’s gone down the same shit lined hallway as its predecessor and all you get is lousy reality shows and things that aren’t Beavis & Butthead.

So in that late night stupour I found her, beating out a tune called Playing With Pink Noise. I’d never heard anyone play guitar quite like that, and the next day I started seeking her out. To my knowledge, Kaki King holds the dubious distinction of being the last artist from whom I purchased physical media. I’m almost positive that Legs To Make Us Longer was the last CD I ever bought.

I purchased it at a Borders in Union Gap. The town remains but the store is long gone. Meanwhile, Kaki is still tops on the tapping and I still enjoy damn near everything she does. Here’s the song that introduced me to her, another chill track called Bowen Island, and a couple of Spotify links to get you started.

Legs To Make Us Longer (Spotify)

Glow (Spotify)


Haim – The Best I’ve Heard in Years

I listen to a lot of weird stuff and anyone who reads this site will recognize that pretty quickly. The reason why I listen to so many odd choices in music is simple: I get incredibly bored with what’s on the radio. I love radio, don’t get me wrong, but 90% of the music you hear on the radio is only .01% of the stuff that’s out there and, of that, .001% is good. So I subscribe to several music blogs just to feed my need for tunes.

One of those sites fed me a newer band called Haim. Haim is three sisters whose last name is the name of the band. (It rhymes with “time” if you’re curious.) At first I thought “girl band” and then I thought “girl power” and I finally realized “I don’t give a damn what they’re gender is, they are goddamned amazing.” They’re writing and performing some of the tightest tracks I’ve heard in years. There’s a minimalism to their work, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything missing. I fell over their stuff last week and they’ve been on my replay ever since.

Their tracks are catchy, the music and lyrics just punctuate the hell out of each other, and well… all I can say is this. I’ve not been this excited about a musical group in, well, probably a decade. Yeah, at least a decade. Dig the videos and links below and I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Haim – Days Are Gone (Spotify link)

Bat For Lashes — What’s a Girl To Do?

BatForLashes-featureThis is one of those tracks where the only thing wrong with it is that it’s too damned short. Bat For Lashes is Natasha Khan, a singer and songwriter from the UK who brings an groove reminiscent of Kimbra, but with dirtier tones which roll quite a bit darker too. I fell over this song a few days ago and it’s gone through my head almost every day since. Dig her on Spotify if you have the app. (And you should. You can use it for free on your desktop or laptop.) Meanwhile, hit play and watch/listen to What’s a Girl To Do? It’s a great video too which combines constant forward motion with some of the creepiest stuff I’ve seen in a music video for quite some time.

Yuna — I Wanna Go

Yuna-I-Wanna-Go-video-stillThis is one of those happy accidents that I fall into quite often on my travels across this web that is, apparently, world wide. The greatest thing about the Internet is that it brings people of all cultures, colours, and backgrounds together. For instance, I might never have heard of a Malaysian singer named Yunalis Mat Zara’ai had it not been for a chance link on some website. Now, since that name is quite a mouthful, she just goes by Yuna. She’s got a wonderful, almost folk, sound to her — with a crystal voice and a quirky sort of tone to her songs.

So check her out. This is I Wanna Go off her Sixth Street EP. Also, dig the Spotify playlist on the right, where you’ll find this song and a bunch of other great tracks from chillout to vocal.

The Girl and the Robot

As you can see, I’ve done some changing up of look and feel. I wanted to get to something a little more minimalist. Something that wasn’t so cluttered but still functional. I’ve never been a huge fan of sliders and stuff, but I liked the theme enough to put up with it. Thing is, I wanted something lighter, but still cool looking. So after some looking around I’m rolling with the Sunspot PinBlack theme from the WordPress Themes Directory.

Anyway, I still want to post music videos and stuff, so I’m going to. I want to post them more frequently, and so I will. More than anything else, I want to post more and share more. After sharing stuff on social networks, I find I’m neglecting my own website to share things on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. It’s kinda dumb, really, since my site shares out to those social networks on its own. So with that, here’s the first of several music bits that are going up over the next few days and weeks.

Robyn is a completely underrated dance and pop singer who’s got original flow and a sound all her own. Meanwhile, R√∂yksopp is well known for backbeat ethereal. So like peanut butter and chocolate, when you put them together you get something pretty damn tasty… audially speaking. Also, watch my playlist on the sidebar. I add stuff to that every week, sometimes every day. You’ll find this track, The Girl and the Robot, on there as of a few minutes before this post went live.

Yes, it’s that fast sometimes!

A History of the Sky – Time Lapse of a Year

Ken Murphey; an artist, musician, and photographer; plopped a camera down on the roof of the Exploratorium in San Francisco. He set the camera to take a picture every ten seconds and then he left it there to do its work for a year. He took all the footage, brought it together, and created a video-mosaic of what the sky looks like over the course of a day for a year. One by one you can see the seasons change, the length of the day change, the weather, the height of the sun, the presence of the moon — it’s all there and it’s absolutely lovely.

A History of the Sky from Ken Murphy on Vimeo.