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Ear Worm


Welcome to Throwback Thursdays where we highlight some good tracks and their music videos from days gone by. However, these songs featured are not just any good oldie — they exemplify what can be considered among the best of music videos and excellence in the way that they capture the song. Hence, they are worth sharing in this year of 2013.

It has been six years since Kanye West released Can’t Tell Me Nothing from his 2007 album, Graduation. This music video is the second version of the song starring Zach Galifianakis and Will Oldham, and was released online only. (There is another version of this song featuring Kanye only.) This video is awesome for various reasons, and highlights the comedic genius of Zach Galifianakis. Chest-pounding rap song? Check. Two bumbling buddies on a North Carolina farm field? Check. Gangster driving of a tractor trailor? Check.

The video almost makes you forget what an a**hole Kanye has proven himself to be (uh, the MTV music awards incident with Taylor Swift), his cringe-worth attempts at fashion design, and his persona in the tabloids (of course he became a Kardashian baby daddy). No, let us forgot these things and focus instead of Kanye’s brilliant decision to have Zach Galifianakis create his music video. Enjoy.

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If you are a student or someone who likes to work with music, you are in good company. I love music, I played years of classical piano (though not very well), and I love discovering artists both old and new. I once had much more enthusiasm about visiting live music concerts, but nowadays I rely on friends, music streaming services, and music review websites to lead me to new gems. Either way, I am that kind of person who always has ear buds popped into my ears: On my commute to class, working out, studying, and at home doing chores.

Hence, I started this series, Things That Go Thump in the Night, for the purpose of sharing some music favourites to readers and anyone who should stop by in this jungle that is The Internet. The musicians and tracks that I have listed are specifically ones that I lean on for work purposes, since most of my time these days is devoted to school — and this time often runs into the wee hours of the night. I love playlists, and am sort of a nerdy, secret DJ for building soundtracks to various aspects of my life. This means that I have a playlist for when I am happy, when I feel like #@*!, for running, for less intense exercises, when I want to relax, and so on. I also have a playlist that I play for studying purposes. These tracks are usually mainly instrumental, are not too slow in tempo (so that I do not fall asleep face forward in the library), and are of various genres to keep things interesting.

I sometimes get requests from friends for music recommendations for studying purposes. I always end up making these friends a burned CD with various selections from this study music playlist, which leads me to designing the CD cover and case, old school style. So I thought, why not make a few blog posts about this playlist? And here we are, at part four of this music series.

So far, I have covered three lists of favourite music for productivity. Part one covered the electronic genre, part two for alternative music, and jazz for part three. Part four of this segment is an array of different genres and musicians which I did not include in any of the earlier posts for various reasons, mainly because I wanted to minimize the length of each blog post. Hence, here I am covering some other great music resources: Sigur Rós, Phoenix, The Herbaliser, Fantastic Plastic Machine, and Keith Jarrett.

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Now that it is January, most of us are back to work, back to school, or at least, back to regular programming. My iPhone is plugged back to my favourite instrumental playlists and I am back haunting my preferred study spots in the city. I am also working on my resolutions for the year, but more on that later.

When it comes to my music playlists for work and productivity, I like variety in types of genres to keep things interesting. However, I also require a bit of repetitiveness in terms of the tracks so that I can keep my focus on my tasks. Which brings me to instrumental jazz music. I was first truly introduced to jazz when I was in my late teens and held a part-time job at a music store in Toronto. I was already trained in classical piano but had abandoned it despite my parents’ grievances, and the freedom out of the confines of Chopin and Liszt fuelled me to discover everything else outside nocturnes and sonatas.

I was first drawn to the songstresses Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, which lead me to discover their non-vocal counterparts in swing music. Benny Goodman was one of my favourite discoveries; his clarinet produce playful and bright tunes that got me hooked into finding more gems. I searched further into the jazz genre and I branched out to the jazz-funk melodies of Herbie Hancock’s more recent productions. And from there I found Goodman and Hancock’s contemporaries, including Robert Glasper, Antibalas, and Mulatu Astatke. So here is a listing of my favourite jazz musicians that successfully accompany coffee, late nights, and deadlines in my work and study life.

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It is the end of December and I keep forgetting that it is also the end of the year. So to commemorate the last days of 2012, I have put together a list of several music favourites that is a bit of an atypical listicle instead of a traditional end of year music blog post. Here are the musicians and their albums that were inspiring, addictive, and my favourites for 2012.

ALBUM THAT MAKES YOU BELIEVE IN MUSIC AGAIN

Grimes was everywhere in 2012 and for a good reason. Her fourth effort since 2010, Visions, is utterly fantastic and hypnotic, aptly described as “witch house.” Visions sounds like no other album before but with its lo-fi dance beats and girlish vocals it is still catchy and, in my opinion, very accessible. I can honestly say that her work makes me have hope that talented musicians can still reach the masses without the requirements of booty shaking and Nickelback replications. Other than Nightmusic (video above), also check out Genesis and its wacky Japanese anime and samurai inspired video.

BEST ALBUM FOR PRODUCTIVE DAYS

I love finding musicians and their albums that serve as background music for work days, and Burial makes quite a few great tracks for this purpose. His Kindred EP came out earlier this year with three strong tracks, and Loner (above) is the highlight of this issue. The Mercury Prize nominated artist has two full albums and several EPs, including collaborations with Thom Yorke and Four Tet, and as I am big fans of both Radiohead and Four Tet I am not surprised that the resulting works are solid.

Listen to more tracks and read my previous posts about music for productivity in these November and December posts: Things That Go Bump in the Night Part One (electronic tracks) and Part Two (alternative tracks). Look out for Part Three for instrumental jazz music and Part Four, to conclude the series, in the new year.

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For the second part of my posts, Things That Go Thump in the Night, I am going over musicians and their tracks that can be best described as being of the “alternative” music category. For me, these musicians are not quite rock, do not fit neatly into electronica, and have great tracks and albums to accompany you through a productive work day. A big contender in this category is the British band Radiohead.

RADIOHEAD

Radiohead is one of the musicians that I have been most loyal to over the years. Growing up in the Toronto suburbs, I was forced into years of classical piano training when all I wanted to do was listen to guitars and the beeps of electronic experimentation. Radiohead definitely fit the bill for both those musical elements, and despite their metamorphosis in style over the years I have loved almost every one of their albums. I also appreciate their newest album, last year’s The King of Limbs, which is the perfect album to play while plowing through work. The album has an ambient feel and the vocals merge with the instruments so that the words are almost discernible. Separator is my favourite track off the album and a great example of the British band’s versatility despite almost 20 years of existence.

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE

The Toronto band, Broken Social Scene, now a  truly broken scene of musicians, have a few instrumental tracks throughout their four albums for your more rock-friendly tastes. Pacific Theme is an easy-going track with a tropical taste, and you would never know it is from a Canadian band with indie cred. Other great instrumental tracks by Broken Social Scene include KC Accidental and Meet Me in the Basement from their last and final album.

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR

The exclamation point-loving, Montréal-based band Godspeed You! Black Emperor is sparse when it comes to issuing new albums but epic when it comes to crafting each of their tracks. The shortest of their works is six and a half minutes long, but have released stretched out tracks as long as twenty-nine minutes, in the case of their first album F# A# (Infinity). Their new album released this year is the first in ten long years, but Godspeed You! Black Emperor have managed to maintain a loyal following of devotees of their saga-producing works. Storm is off of their second album, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, and is emotive, daunting, and inspiring for a long day of work.

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We already celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada last month, but it seems that the American turkey day is a much more serious matter down south. For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving Day today, here is The National covering “The Thanksgiving Song” from the animated sitcom, Bob’s Burgers.

Have I ever seen an episode of Bob’s Burgers? Nope. But I sure do enjoy this short, silly and purposefully morose song. Like cranberry sauce and stuffing, this will be the perfect accompaniment to your bird feast and days of turkey leftovers. And it also serves as a great way to tide us over until The National brings out another great album, which we hope is very soon.

My sleep schedule is and has always been a bit scattered. I am not one of those people who, by the coaxing of a natural internal clock, wakes up every day at 6 am with bright eyes and clear mind. No, my body will sleep until noon if allowed and later I will be guzzling sugar-free Red Bull at 3 am to continue my study groove. Is this healthy? Never said it was. But since I have been perpetually a student it is easy for me to continue with these habits and watch my face ashen from too much caffeine and not enough sunlight.

Other than copious amounts of coffee and energy drinks, the other essential ingredient to productivity is a great soundtrack. I love great music and insist on having appropriate music for the specific occasion, which means that my iTunes playlists are highly organized with customized collections. I have a “Happy” playlist, a “I Feel Shitty” playlist, a “Relaxing Favourites” playlist, and even a collection called “Fun” when I feel like inserting some ridiculous gansta rap (Notorious B.I.G. anyone?) or the energy of Daft Punk into my day. But the playlist on continuous rotation is my mix for studying purposes, which are mainly instrumental tracks plucked from various artists and genres.

I perused these tracks and thought I would share some goodies, some which are oldies but remain classics in my music library. There are so many artists and tracks that I want to share, so I am organizing the tracks by genre and into four separate posts. For this post, I will go over five of my favourite Electronic musicians and songs that are in rotation for my study music soundtrack.

CARIBOU

Caribou, formerly known as Manitoba, is a British-based, Canadian musician whose work is usually light, upbeat, and is self-described as “liquid dance music.” The track above, Sun, is from his 2010 effort called Swim. Swim is the follow-up to his 2008 Canadian Polaris Music Prize award-winning album, Andorra. Keep in mind that, in addition to being an award-winning and prolific musician — over an eleven year span, Caribou has issued six albums — Caribou also has a PhD in mathematics. Listening to Caribou smacks me into productivity and promptly cuts any whining that I might have pondered.

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