Album Review: “Magnifique” by Ratatat

Ratatat Magnifique

Magnifique
Released: July 17th, 2015
Reviewed by Erik Wermuth
Rating: 4/5

Brief disclaimer: ever since I first heard their self-titled album in 2007, Ratatat have been my favorite band, bar none. At that point I had heard electronic acts with something approaching Evan Mast and Mike Stroud’s ear for subtle build-up and original melodies, but never combined with the excitement that live instrumentation brings. Guitar and bass took the place of vocals and removed any distraction from the New York pair’s contribution to rock and electronic. More so than any review I could write, this one is from the perspective of a fanboy. I’ve done my best to temper my natural inclination to think that they can do no wrong, but nobody’s perfect (despite my instinct that, musically at least, these two are about as close as it gets).

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that back in 2011 when Ratatat announced they were beginning work on their fifth studio album, I was more than excited. News of an upcoming release would have been enough to send me skipping back and forth down my hallway with childish glee (not really), but every website announcing the album, tentatively referred to as LP5 after their last two albums LP3 and LP4, also included another nugget: the duo had secluded themselves in a beach house studio on Long Island to write and record.

With their unkempt hair, lack of vocals, and generally secretive attitude, they had always presented themselves as something like basement guitar gurus: cloistered monks of the electronic world. The news that they were holing up in a personal studio to work their obscure magic fit so perfectly with this narrative that I was utterly enthralled by imagining the process. As year after year passed and no further updates were forthcoming, the mystery only became more compelling. When at a certain point the wait for LP5 became something of a joke, like the endless wait for a new Duke Nukem and the internet even started to doubt its existence, I could only wait and picture a wide shot of the studio at night, with strange lights flashing through the windows and the cracks in the doors like a mystic laboratory.

When the news finally dropped that the album was coming, along with a name, its first single and the beginnings of a tour schedule, I went skipping back and forth down my hallway with childish glee (really). With such a huge 4 year buildup, nothing short of excellence would have sufficed and, for the most part, Magnifique delivers on that promise. The whole album bursts with the same energy that Ratatat have been bringing since 2004, and I absolutely can’t wait to see them live again with this album in the rotation.

Because of their flowing, instrumental style, I find that Ratatat is best listened to in terms of albums rather than individual songs, so I won’t give my usual track-by-track analysis. In Magnifique, Stroud and Mast confirmed their status as the modern American answers to Johann Sebastian Bach by perfecting a similar mathematical, theme-building style. In terms of their previous work, Magnifique sounds the most like their more standard first two albums Ratatat and Classics. However, some of the more involved production (particularly in the places where the album speeds up) evokes their more experimental LP3 and much of the slide-guitar work (particularly in the places where the album slows down) feels very much like the equally experimental LP4.

Most of all, Magnifique seems to be a combination of the lessons Stroud and Mast learned in making LP3/LP4 (the majority of which were recorded in the same studio session) and their more ‘standard’ sound present in Ratatat and Classics. To some, this kind of musical consolidation is the signal of a weaker effort, but this album feels more like a new apex and a necessary step than a simple rehashing of old ideas. The question of whether or not the duo have run out of creative juice after this effort is still up in the air, but considering the scope of Evan Mast’s many side projects (the sweet, downtempo e*vax and the exotic Abuela for instance), I find it hard to believe that’s possible. Nothing would make me happier than an experimental series LP6/LP7 followed by another consolidation of creative effort. We can only hope it takes less of a decade this time around.

In the end, if you’ve listened to Ratatat previously, Magnifique is only going to solidify your opinion of them, whatever that may be. If you’re new to the pair, the all-encompassing Magnifique just might be the perfect place to start. As a past, present, and future fan I give it a satisfied 4/5.

Elephant Revival Interview

Elephant Revival is a band that blends folk music with bluegrass, celtic music, psychedelic country, indie rock, and occasionally, even reggae and hip hop. Even with so many different sounds in their songs, they retain a style that is distinctly their own—mostly because of their wonderful vocals and environmentally conscious themes. Since 2006, they’ve been building a solid fan base around the country, and are about to embark on a Midwest tour. On September 28th, they’ll be playing at the Majestic Theatre in Madison, just a skip away from Murfie HQ—so we thought the time was perfect to learn a bit more about them! Here’s a Q&A I had with Dan Rodriguez (acoustic guitar, electric banjo/guitar, vocals). We talked via phone from his friend’s studio in Boulder, Colorado:

K: I see you guys are from Nederland, Colorado!

D: Yeah. We started there, and we all lived there for a handful of years. Just recently Sage moved back to Kansas to the family farm. So we’re not all living in Nederland now, but we still consider ourselves a Nederland band.

K: I actually visited that place for the first time last year for Nedfest—have you gone to that?

D: I’ve gone to it many times, and performed there a few times too. It’s a hometown fest!

K: Nederland is a funky little town, there’s mountains and taverns and flannel—I love it. And the people are really nice. One thing I like about your band is it’s a co-ed band, a mix of guys and girls. Have you found that it brings a certain energy to the band?

D: I certainly couldn’t imagine it any differently. The men and the women—the kind of alchemy that happens—it’s just been such an integral part of everything. It’s just a big part of our sound and part of the vibe.

K: So you all are coming to Madison on September 28th —do you have shows in between then?

D: Yeah, we do. We have one in Minneapolis, at the Cedar Cultural Center, and then we play Boats and Bluegrass Festival in Winona, Minnesota, then we play Ames, Iowa, and then we’re in Madison.

K: Have you had some good luck touring in the past? Do you like to travel around for shows?

Continue reading Elephant Revival Interview

Interview with Charlie Parr

To celebrate #ThrowbackThursday, we went into the Murfie Podcast vault to bring you this transcription of our interview with Charlie Parr, recorded on April 9th, 2012! You can listen to the full audio podcast here.

Charlie Parr_MG_7107

INTRO: This is Kayla here, with your Murfie podcast. This week, we’re featuring the one and only Charlie Parr. Now, he’s humble about this, but he’s widely known for his work in gospel and bluegrass music. Recently, he gave me a call to tell me about his new album, Keep Your Hands on the Plow.

[MUSIC: “Gospel Plow” by Charlie Parr]

Kayla: So Charlie, where are you calling from?

Charlie: I’m actually calling from my mom’s house, in Austin, Minnesota. I came down with the kids for the holiday weekend, for Easter, and we’re still here and gonna get up in the morning and head back to Duluth.

Kayla: Ahhh. So, are you from Minnesota originally?

Charlie: Yeah, I’m actually from Austin, Minnesota. I grew up here, left in the mid-‘80s, I think it was, stopped in Minneapolis for a few years, and then headed for Duluth.

Charlie Parr 1922Kayla: Mmhmm. I saw that you spent some time in Australia, touring because of the success of your album, 1922—so how was that?

Charlie: Yeah, oh, it was good. I’ve been over there now…five times? I’ll head back over again in probably January of 2013, for another run. It’s great, I love touring in Australia. It’s kind of like touring in the Midwest—it’s relatively easy, and everybody’s really friendly…really nice.

Kayla: So, your success there…I know it started with the song “1922”, and I heard there’s kind of an interesting story behind that, about your father?

Charlie: Oh, about the song, yeah. I mean, I didn’t really start writin’ songs until my dad had died in ’95, and so that was one of the first ones I ever wrote. It’s named for the year he was born, in 1922, and it’s primarily just a bunch of little snippets of things that he had talked about, or told me about. He had all kinds of adventures when he was a kid, when he was a teenager, early teens, y’know. The Depression was on and they were livin’ in a large family—he had, I think, eighteen brothers and sisters, or seventeen brothers and sisters. And he took off, and went out and hopped freight trains, and done stuff like that for quite awhile, and had a bunch of stories to tell me when I was a kid, and I always remembered all of ‘em. So when I started tryin’ to write songs, some of the first songs I tried to write were about him, and those stories, and I think it was a way to grieve, y’know. I think it still is, ‘cause a lot of the songs I’m still writing to this day have touches of all the things that I kinda learned from him. He was a gigantic influence on me in a lot of ways. He was a good father, he was quite a mentor.

Kayla: Mmhmm. And musically, too, has he had any influence on you?

Charlie: He did, when I was a kid. Y’know, his record collection is my record collection now. He listened to old country western music and old folk music, and blues, and acoustic music. And when I was a kid, that’s what I listened to, ‘cause that’s what played all the time in the house. And he bought me my first guitar when I was seven years old. He traded a perfectly good boat motor in on this guitar, and I’d better learn how to play it, ‘cause that was a really good trolling motor, as opposed to the other motor he had, which wasn’t as good. But, yeah, so I mean, I kind of owe it all to him.

137842-largeKayla: I see that on your recent album, Keep Your Hands on the Plow, Emily Parr lent her talents on there for some vocals and tambourine—is that your wife?

Charlie: That’s my wife, yeah, she’s the other person I kinda owe it all to. It’s always nice when she gets to sing a little bit with me, and we planned this whole record out kind of together…songs that we both like, y’know, older songs…it’s some gospel songs, and some traditional songs, and even a chain gang song on there. It was really nice, gettin’ to record with her. Unfortunately, we don’t get to perform much together because, y’know, she’s got a job and works quite a bit.

Kayla: She’s got a great voice—does she have a history with music or singing?

Charlie: Oh, yeah, I mean she’s done this kind of stuff all of her life. She went to college and had a degree in music and theater, so she’s always been interested in music. And she plays the flute, and she’s played in symphony-type situations quite a bit. I’m untrained myself, so we can’t really play music together because I don’t have a clue what’s going on and it’s frustrating for her, I think.

Kayla: [Laughs] So you’re mostly self-taught then?

Charlie: I’m all self-taught, yeah. I just learned from listening to old records of my dad’s, tryin’ to pick out what they were doin’. And I’m still tryin’ to learn—I don’t think it ever stops…which is good, y’know, it keeps you interested. And sometimes it’s frustrating, and you feel like there’s gotta be a quicker way, but in a way, I think that’s maybe not a good way to think about it, because the way I took did me a lot of good, I think, even though it was longer.

Kayla: So, your new album was recorded in a church—how was that? Was it different than your other recordings, or have you done that before?

Charlie: I’ve done a few things in a church, once in awhile. It was decommissioned some time ago, and it’s now a performance space and recording studio in Duluth—the Sacred Heart. And it’s pretty amazing, I mean when you walk in, it’s a church, it’s a huge sanctuary, so you get that kind of church-y sound, y’know—it’s got a nine-second reverb time in the sanctuary. So it’s a pretty incredible place to just…be, and perform, much less record in. So it was really nice, and it is different…I usually record wherever I feel comfortable. We’ve recorded in garages and storefronts and bar basements, and wherever it feels right, y’know. So, it felt good…and we had a really nice afternoon, and pretty much got the whole thing done in an afternoon and a little bit the day before, when I came in and did a couple solo things.

Kayla: So, this album was released in 2011, and—I love it by the way—so, what have you got planned for this year?

Charlie: This year, I’m starting to record the next record which will be kind of more back to my own original material, and I’m probably gonna record it in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, at a friend of mine’s house down there. And it’s probably not gonna be out until early in ’13. I’m doing a lot of touring before then, so I don’t know if I’m gonna get around to recording it until sometime this summer. But I’m heading out for Ireland here at the end of this month, and then I’ve got shows all through the summer, and might be heading back to Europe in the fall, and then Australia in the early part of next year. But the new record, the next one comin’ up, it’s gonna be called Barnswallow. And it’s probably gonna be more of the same that I usually do, my own kind of songs, harmonica player and a washboard player, maybe talk Emily into comin’ down and singin’ a couple of songs…we’ll see what happens, I guess.

Kayla: Well, definitely keep us posted about that! We’ll have that to look forward to. And good luck with touring, too! It looks like you’re gonna be pretty busy.

Charlie: Yeah, it’s been good though—I’ve been really lucky. Thank you very much.

Kayla: Yeah—thank you!

OUTRO: And that was Charlie Parr. You can find him at charlieparr.com, and the album Keep Your Hands on the Plow is available now. Thanks for listening, and enjoy this clip of “Gospel Plow”.

[MUSIC: “Gospel Plow” by Charlie Parr]

Your Dose of Cool: Jeff Buckley

GraceJeff Buckley was an enigma of an artist. Making his name during the turbulent music scene of the 1990s, his one and only full length album, Grace, is often hailed as one of the greatest records ever created. His music transcended genre—he reigned from a throne gilded in grunge, rock, vocal jazz, and 16th Century English carols. And it worked marvelously.

Grace contains one of Buckley’s best known performances, a cover of Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah.” As one would come to expect from Buckley’s repertoire of work, this rendition is haunting, sweet, and nothing short of brilliant. Don’t be alarmed if your eyes begin to water before the piece is finished playing. Live at Sin-E

I recently came across a 1993 release of a live performance, Live at Sin-é. Buckley was beginning to build a fan base, and was still performing in little clubs around New York City with only his guitar and voice as support. This cover of Edith Piaf‘s “Je n’en connais pas la fin” showcases Buckley’s signature sound. His voice is ethereal, his guitar playing hypnotic, and he even sings the choruses in Piaf’s native French. Listen to the gem below and enjoy the coolness.

Check out Murfie’s collection of Jeff Buckley music starting at just $2!


Grant Peterre
@gpeterre

Grant is a Communications Intern at Murfie. He has played the guitar nearly his entire life, and his music and writings have been featured in international publications. He makes his home in both the United States and Italy, and will always be traveling in search of something.



Your Dose of Cool: Grant Green

Let’s get jazzy, boys and girls. Today I’m showcasing one of my personal favorite bebop guitarists, Grant Green. Relatively unknown during his lifetime, he recorded dozens of albums for Blue Note Records throughout the 1960s and 1970s. If you’re looking for hard bop soul jazz centered around a truly unique guitarist, look no further.Am I Blue

This music has an atmosphere thicker than the planet Venus.

The Best of Grant GreenJust take one listen to Green’s 1963 release, Idle Moments. The title track is a chilled out odyssey of hip, passionate jazz that is served best with a dark liquor and French cuffs. The first few bars are unforgettable, and set the velvety mood that has defined Green’s career. Have a listen for yourself, and enjoy your dose of cool today:

Check out Murfie’s extensive collection of Grant Green albums! As always, you get unlimited streaming (Web, iOS, Android, Sonos) and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC. 


Grant Peterre
@gpeterre

Grant is a Communications Intern at Murfie. He has played the guitar nearly his entire life, and his music and writings have been featured in international publications. He makes his home in both the United States and Italy, and will always be traveling in search of something.


Album Preview: “The Breeze (An Appreciation of JJ Cale)” by Eric Clapton & Friends

The BreezeAlbum
The Breeze (An Appreciation of JJ Cale)

Artist
Eric Clapton & Friends

Release Date
July 29, 2014

Label
Bushbranch / Surfdog

Pre-order Link
Pre-order Album

Preview
It seems as if Eric Clapton is ready to share more music with the world. This time around, Clapton has joined with several friends and music icons to pay tribute to one of rock music’s heroes of songwriting, the late J.J. Cale. Eric Clapton & Friends will be releasing The Breeze (An Appreciation of JJ Cale) this month. And if Eric Clapton’s leadership weren’t enough, the list of guest artists featured on the album promise to deliver an unforgettable experience.

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton certainly has no shortage of accolades. Thrice-inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work as a solo artist, and member of The Yardbirds and Cream, Eric Clapton has earned his place as a living legend. He has released over twenty albums as a solo artist and has appeared and collaborated on countless others. His efforts have earned him seventeen Grammy awards. He is continually ranked as one of the greatest blues guitar players of all time, and his influence is cited by countless musicians today.

UnpluggedJ.J. Cale also inspired innumerable musicians throughout his four decade career, and was a frequent collaborator with Clapton. Tunes such as “After Midnight” and “Cocaine” were penned by Cale and covered by Clapton with much success. Clapton aims to honor Cale’s legacy with The Breeze (An Appreciation of JJ Cale). Speaking on the album, Clapton stated, “I would like people to tap into what JJ Cale did—that’s the point. I’m just the messenger; I’ve always felt that that’s my job. I try to interpret things so that the public at large, or at least the people who listen to what I do, will become intrigued about where I got it from.”Me and Mr. Johnson

The Breeze (An Appreciation of JJ Cale) is shaping up to be a blues fan’s dream. Guest appearances by legendary musicians such as Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler, John Mayer, and Willie Nelson promise to deliver a collaboration that should not be missed.

Check out the official music video for “Call Me The Breeze Below!”

A teaser from The Breeze (An Appreciation of JJ Cale):

Pre-order your copy of The Breeze (An Appreciation of JJ Cale) today at Murfie! Each CD comes with unlimited streaming (Web, iOS, Android, Sonos) and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC. 

Interview with Pigeon John

PigeonJohn_4320 copyPigeon John is a super talented rapper, musician and storyteller. With a home base in Los Angeles and years of experience under his belt, he holds a lot of insight on the music scene in America.

This interview was originally posted as an audio podcast earlier this year, right before Pigeon John’s newest album, Encino Man, was released. Read on to learn more about his views on the exciting genre of American hip hop, its deep connection to blues and rock, and the storytellers who make it all happen.

 * * *

This is Kayla here, with your Murfie podcast. This time, we’re featuring a hip hop artist known as Pigeon John, based out of Los Angeles, California. He’s a great character, with a lot of insight on music and life, so it was a real pleasure chatting with him while he was on tour.

[MUSIC: “Oh Yeah” by Pigeon John]

Kayla: Alright, so right now I have Pigeon John on the phone—how’s it all goin’, Pigeon John?

P.J.: It is goin’…very fine and well.

Kayla: Good, good…where are you calling from?

P.J.: I’m calling from Cleveland, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, actually.

Kayla: No way! Oh, that’s so cool!

P.J.: Yeah, yeah we have a show tomorrow in Cleveland and we had a day off today, so everyone—the whole crew—decided to come on down, visit, get inspired, check out some musical inspiration.

Kayla: Cool! Have you seen some cool stuff there today?

P.J.: Yeah, yeah, for sure, a lot, a lot of stuff…and learned a lot, too.

Kayla: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I mean…that place really goes all across the board. All kinds of legends have been honored by them—

P.J.: Oh, yes.

Kayla: So, I would find that very inspiring, too, on tour. I know you just came through Madison, so how much of the tour do you have left to go?

P.J.: Uh, actually we have twenty-five more dates to go on the tour. And uh, so far so good…it’s been a blast.

Kayla: Awesome!

P.J.: It’s been a blast touring with The Grouch & Eligh and Madchild, and then I’m gonna join Eliot Lipp in a couple days, so…it’s been good.

Kayla: Mmhmm. I think The Grouch & Eligh, they’re playing on Saturday the 15th in Milwaukee with Slightly Stoopid, if I’m not mistaken.

P.J.: Yes.

Kayla: Yes!

P.J. Yep, the whole tour’s gonna open up for Slightly Stoopid for like, three dates I believe?

Kayla: Oh!

P.J.: In Chicago, Milwaukee, and I believe Detroit?

Kayla: Oooh! So you’re gonna be in Milwaukee, too?

P.J.: Yeah!

Kayla: Whaaaat!

Continue reading Interview with Pigeon John