Caroline Smith Interview

Caroline SmithMy first interaction with Caroline Smith was way back in July 2012, when her band still went by Caroline Smith & the Good Night Sleeps. Caroline and her bassist Jesse Schuster agreed to record an interview during a house show in Madison, and the entire night was a lot of fun!

Over the past two years, Caroline developed a different style. The release of her 2013 album Half About Being a Woman marked a departure from her indie rock outfit to a more soulful sound. In my opinion, the new direction suits her well. It’s fun, and it’s completely genuine. It’s 100% Caroline.

From the beginning, I certainly knew she was talented—heck, that’s why I asked her to do a Murfie podcast. But ever since she tapped into her soulful roots, I’ve become really hooked on her music and current collaborations. In April of this year, we caught up again for another Murfie podcast, before her show with Dessa at The Majestic. The audio version is a lot of fun, but I’ve transcribed most of it below for your reading pleasure!


K: Right now I’m at Ancora Coffee in downtown Madison with Caroline Smith over here sipping her coffee.

C: Hi!

K: Thanks for meeting me! You mentioned you just drove here from Rochester, Minnesota, not Rochester, New York. So how are things in Minnesota?

C: Things are really great in Minnesota right now. I mean, if we’re just talking lifestyle-wise, the snow is finally gone, so life can begin again. People can start to smile again. But for us musically—for my band in Minnesota, things are better than ever. The regional music scene is just bar-none.

K: I’ve found a lot of bands now—I don’t think this has to do with the fact that we’re in Wisconsin—but Minnesota seems to be a hub for music now.

C: Yeah!

K: All kinds of music. Hip-hop….

C: Mm-hmm.

Half About Being a WomanK: Indie rock, stuff like that. I like the new direction that your album, Half About Being a Woman, is going in.

C: Thank you!

K: It’s kind of soul, R&B. The first few seconds of the first song, you know that something, something different is going down…

C: Something has changed, yes!

K: So tell me a bit about the evolution of your music—is this something you always saw coming, something that you always wanted to try?

Continue reading Caroline Smith Interview

Sounds Like New York: The Best of the Empire State

This week, we’re heading east. Check out our reviews of three of the best albums by New York artists!

Paul Simon GracelandPaul Simon
Graceland

Simply put: this album is one of my absolute favorites of all time, and it should be on your list as well. As a solo artist, Simon is like a musical archaeologist, digging up influences from styles of music ranging from blues to salsa to reggae. Graceland represents his move even further away from the pop-rock mainstream charts he topped as part of Simon & Garfunkel. It’s heavily influenced by both South African music and culture, exploring both new sounds and new political statements.

Rather that simply merging African influence with traditional Western sounds, this album commits: Nine of its eleven songs contain elements of mbaqanga, or South African pop music. Much of the recording was done in Johannesberg, and the songs truly soak up the local sound. They also absorb the local politics; Simon’s collaborations with local musicians inherently address controversial issues like apartheid. On the standout track “Homeless”, harmonies by vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo suggest the possibility of peaceful resolution.

The title track, one of Simon’s greatest songs, best represents the album’s attitude. Although the song’s narrator is running from a broken relationship, he runs towards what he believes to be a place of happiness and redemption. Simon is unafraid to examine the dark sides of people and societies, but remains hopeful that there is always light to be found.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Graceland”, “Homeless”

Jay-Z Reasonable DoubtJay-Z
Reasonable Doubt

Although this album was rap legend’s Jay-Z’s first and lowest selling, he himself calls it his best album to date. I’d have to agree: This album is a classic that belongs on the top shelf of any rap lover’s collection. It’s a mastery of execution-—smoothly delivered, easy to listen to, and filled with top-notch collaborations and quick, clever wordplay. In a genre that’s all about delivery, few have mastered the craft as well as Jay-Z does here.

What separates this album from the hundreds of other rap albums released in the ’90s? Jay-Z’s steady flow, witty lyrics, and confident delivery that put him on the map. Although it certainly contains tried-and-true themes of crime tales and street stories, his charisma is all his own. His humor and presence on each track make him a relatable figure who can sell to Middle America as well as he can to his native Brooklyn neighborhoods. This album establishes Jay not only as a rapper, but as a storyteller.

Another highlight on this album is the fantastic array of collaborations that blends in seamlessly. On highlight “Brooklyn’s Finest”, Jay-Z raps along with New York legend Notorious B.I.G. in a track that allows them to work together as equals, but also suggests subtle competition between the two for the song’s title. It seems only fitting that one of rap’s all-time greats would lend a hand on the debut of one of modern music’s most recognizable figures.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Brooklyn’s Finest”, “Politics as Usual”

MI0000832128The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground & Nico

Velvet Underground vocalist and guitarist Lou Reed‘s death last fall brought this album back into heavy rotation in my collection. It was a reminder of how influential this band has really been: Despite the fact that this album only sold 30,000 copies when it was released, British musician Brian Eno famously said that “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band”. Despite its initial commercial flop, this album has gone on to become one of the most influential of its generation.

This record is, in a word, fearless: In an era most noted for the Summer of Love, it combined lyrics about drug addiction and despair with pounding force and throbbing basslines. Despite its bold statement, it still contains surprising diversity. It moves from the smooth and stripped-down R&B sounds of “There She Goes Again” to the tough punk rock of “Waiting for the Man” without skipping a beat. Although the album’s controversial lyrics have ultimately gained it the most attention (and notoriety), they’re matched by a solid music backing that is equally unique and compelling.

What’s most fascinating is listening to this album after hearing decades of rock and roll develop from the late 1960s onward. After just a few songs in, it’s easy to see that nearly every brand of rock owes credit to this album.  From punk to new wave and everything in between, nearly everything in the rock genre has been influenced by the Velvet Underground’s sound.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “There She Goes Again”, “Sunday Morning”


Ally Boutelle
@arboutelle

Ally is a communications intern at Murfie, blogging about all things music. When she’s not typing away, she cooks spicy food, does hot yoga, and reads weird history books. She’s also a college student double majoring in history and journalism.


#FreeFriday: The Mouse and the Mask

Time for our second edition of #FreeFriday! Each week we’ll review an album, and give it away to one lucky winner. For a chance to win the album, all you have to do is read this post, then share on social media at least one of these ways:

  • Share this blog post on Twitter—use the hashtag #FreeFriday and tag @murfiemusic
  • Retweet one of the #FreeFriday tweets we send via @murfiemusic
  • Share our #FreeFriday Facebook post (in a public post)

Now, on to this week’s awesome featured album…
mouse

The Mouse and the Mask (DANGERDOOM, 2005)

DANGERDOOM’s 2005 album The Mouse and the Mask begins with a very interesting question. The first voice on the album isn’t either of the group’s two members but rather the voice of Brak (the catlike alien you may remember from Space Ghost) asking the listener “Why did you buy this album? …I don’t know why you did, you’re stupid.” Aside from bringing up deep questions about the appeal of physical music in a digital age (which we at Murfie know all too well) this opening perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album. The Cartoon Network samples may make it difficult to take the album seriously, but the combined talents of Daniel Dumile and Brian Burton make it an album that, despite Brak’s protests, is definitely worth buying (or winning from #FreeFriday).

Dumile and Burton, better known by their stage names MF DOOM and Danger Mouse, are two of the most innovative and prolific hip hop artists of the last decade, and both were at the top of their game on this album. At the time of The Mouse and the Mask’s release, Dumile had released a plethora of material both lyrical and instrumental under several different names including Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah, and Madvillain. Burton’s history isn’t anything to sneeze at either. By 2005 Danger Mouse had already gained national attention from his mixtape The Grey Album, a mashup of Jay-Z’s The Black Album with The Beatleseponymous white album. He went on to start Gnarls Barkley with Cee-Lo Green and Broken Bells with The Shins’ James Mercer. Burton was also credited with production on GorillazDemon Days, The Black KeysAttack & Release, and Beck’s Modern Guilt. It really is quite the resumé.

DOOM’s intricate rhyme schemes, Danger Mouse’s sampling skills, and the duo’s extensive experience make this album a great listen, but they’re not the only big names on the record. Burton’s pal Cee-Lo croons the silky smooth hook on “Benzie Box” while Doom spits alongside fellow New Yorkers Talib Kweli (on “Old School”) and Wu Tang’s Ghostface Killah (on “The Mask”). The album also features dialog from various characters from Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, including the casts of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Sealab 2021.

The Mouse and the Mask follows a storyline in which Aqua Teen’s Master Shake keeps trying to convince Danger Mouse to help him produce a new rap album, but the goofy dialogue is just a frilly garnish atop a rich and complex musical feast. No matter where Danger Mouse goes with his samples, DOOM is right behind him with a mind-blowing string of carefully veiled puns and tongue-twisting alliteration. I’d love to tell you more about it, but in a single line Dumile gives a summary better than I could ever hope to provide with a thousand words. At the end of “Mince Meat,” he boasts: “Off a DAT tape of rap, country or deep house / I’ll make mincemeat out of that beat, Mouse.”

Share this post in one of the ways listed above, and we’ll let you know if you’re the winner on Monday! Good luck!



Andrew Hinkens

Andrew works in Operations at Murfie, taking great care to make sure all your albums are ripped quickly and accurately. He enjoys collecting vinyl, going to concerts, longboarding, and playing with just about any dog he can get close to.



This Week in Music History (June 19th-25th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

8078-large6/19- On this day in 1988, Michael Jackson played a concert next to the Berlin Wall, on the west side. He pumped the music way up so that people on the east side could hear. Any east sider who tried to get close to the wall to listen was violently kept back by police.

13335-large6/20- On this day in 1974, Bob Dylan & the Band released Before the Flood, a double live album with final recordings taken from Los Angeles and New York shows.

MI00029147286/21- On this day in 1991, Little Richard received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The “overjoyed force of personality in his singing” is one that is easily recognized in tunes like “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Tutti Frutti”.

20864-large6/22- On this day in 1990, Billy Joel performed an epic concert at the old Yankee Stadium. It’s been claimed that this was the first major concert in the stadium’s history. 60,000 fans were in attendance, which was more than the seating capacity of baseball games at that time.

102505-large6/23- On this day in 1929, June Carter Cash was born. Performing with her family from a young age, she was already a country music star. Her success continued throughout her entire life, including the 35 years she was married to Johnny Cash.

40960-large6/24- On this day in 1977, some quirky stuff went down in Madison. Elvis was in town for a show, and he spotted a fight between some young men when he was riding down East Washington avenue. After getting out of his limo, he allegedly warned the men, saying, “I’ll take you on.” Not only did this make the men stop fighting, but it left them amazed to have spotted Elvis.

222995-large6/25- On this day in 2009, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, passed away at age 50. His music will forever influence genres from pop/rock to rap and R&B, and many more.

Oh, so you want to own any of these awesome albums here, or hear them in lossless format? Well we just so happen to have them for sale! Find your new favorite for as little as $1!