Looking back...

Favorite Jams of 2008
as selected in an alley by members of the SBWS

Robin Pecknold of the Fleet Foxes at WWU.

DJ Fundi
Top 10 Tier

Fleet Foxes "Sun King" + self-titled
Al Green "Lay It Down"
Gnarls Barkley "The Odd Couple"
Stephen Malkmus "Real Emotional Trash"
Erykah Badu "New Amerykah"
Cat Power "Jukebox"
Flying Lotus "Los Angeles"
Girl Talk "Feed the Animals"
Bon Iver "For Emma, Forever Ago"
Q-Tip "The Renaissance"

Second 10 Tier
DJ/rupture "Uproot"
"The Very Best" mixtape by Esau Mwamwaya & Radioclit (available for free download at
The Roots "Rising Down"
Jamie Lidell "Jim"
Dusk + Blackdown "Margins Music"
The B-52's "Funplex"
Bob Dylan "Tell Tale Signs" (B-sides, outtakes, rarities, etc.)
Toumani Diabate "The Mande Variations"
Neil Young "Sugar Mountain : Live at Canterbury House 1968"
Quantic "Flowering Inferno"

Honorable mentions: Orchestra Baobab, Santogold, Amadou & Mariam, Nina Simone boxset
Best concert experiences of 09: Bassnectar in B'ham, Fleet Foxes at WWU, Horning's Hideout bluegrass festival in OR, John Scofield in Vancouver
Biggest disappointments: Beck, My Morning Jacket, Thievery Corporation & Michael Franti

Click here to listen to a Rhapsody playlist based on the SBWS Favorite Songs of 2008 lists.

More lists after the jump...
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Flying Lotus

Steven Ellison is a tall, soft-spoken twenty-five-year-old who works under the name Flying Lotus. As part of a peer network, with outposts in Los Angeles, Montreal, and Glasgow, Ellison is helping to lead a small group of producers toward a new strain of hip-hop. He has been signed to the highly regarded London-based label Warp, which made a name in the nineties by releasing esoteric electronic recordings by Autechre and Aphex Twin. Ellison and his contemporaries have come up with a fusion of the extreme detail allowed by software programming (fractal spidering of sounds, a backdrop of crackles, and prickling, feverish rhythms no human hands could play) and the bedrock thump of hip-hop, the grounding beat that has bled into almost all pop music in the world. Ellison’s Flying Lotus releases this year—an album titled “Los Angeles” and a series of EPs—are a good index of how one branch of hip-hop is going to move into the next decade, detaching itself from traditional hip-hop rhyming and forming new splinter genres.

To listen to Flying Lotus' "Essential Mix" for BBC Radio One, visit Radio Free Fundi.
To listen to Flying Lotus' remix of Radiohead's "Reckoner,
click right here.
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Obama vs. McCain Dance-Off

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Celebration in the Streets


Yes We Did!!!

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Glitch Mob Street Warfare

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more Foxes...

Due to popular demand from Podcast Cafe listeners who are loving the Fleet Foxes as much as I am, I dug out a BBC Radio 2 show featuring the Foxes in the studio, playing a few tunes and being interviewed. As a bonus, I added on two unreleased studio tracks to the end of the podcast. You can download or stream it over at the Live Archive.

Also, a dude who was at the sold-out Bellingham show last weekend contacted me to say he too was at the show, sitting in the front row, videotaping portions of the concert. The main difference is he got great footage. Check it out:

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Fleet Fox Mania!!

I've been listening to both
Fleet Foxes albums a ton over the past 2 months or so -- especially am fond of the debut EP "Sun Giant," and on that release, I am insatiably hooked on the tunes "Mykonos" and "Innocent Son." I liked this band plenty-- their comforting sound, unique songwriting, creative instrumentation and especially the CSNY-esque vocal harmonies -- but after seeing them live last night here in Bellingham....well, now it is serious. Freekin' A: they sounded good -- strong, clear, rousing, and the power of their harmonies sung live, with the full bellows of their lungs, was almost startling. The venue they played in -- the Performing Arts Center on the campus of Western Washington University -- was designed for the ultimate sound -- it is often used for classical and other acoustic performances. The Foxes filled the whole space -- which was packed to the rafters with mostly students, but folks of all ages too -- with a warm, reverberating sound that I could literally feel resonating in my chest. Because I went to the show solo, I was able to score a seat in the front row center, so was on the front lines of their performance.

They talked quite a bit between songs -- conversations with old friends they knew in the audience, gently poking fun at the Society for Creative Anachronisms (Dungeons & Dragons, but in real life), Bruce Springsteen and college kids -- and mentioned several times they felt uncomfortable playing a college auditorium, as opposed to a club, with the crowd invisible to them because of the lighting.

"I wonder if, like, you're all a college class studying us, and everybody knows it but us," a Fox wondered. From then on, the crowd shouted "A+!" or "extra credit!" when they played a particularly good song or told a good joke.

Another thread of conversation through the performance was the lead singer, who was donning a too-small, uncomfortable-looking red jacket, talking about a wardrobe malfunction. "I'm wearing this red jacket because I lost all of my other clothes," he sighed. Later he wondered aloud, "How did I lose all my clothes?"

Anyways, you can download or stream a live Fleet Foxes concert from this past summer over at
the Live Archive (thanks NPR!) I have video of them performing the excellent song "Mykonos" in Bellingham posted at YouTube and a few photos over at Flickr.

The sound on this video is pretty shoddy -- the music was loud, I was in the front row, my camera is cheap -- but the vocal harmonies at minutes 2:00 and 3:25 sound rather marvelous.

This one here features lead singer Robin Pecknold singing s song solo and unplugged. Only problem was that my memory card filled up about halfway through the song! Obviously, my pirating skills need some work -- AAAAaaaaaarrrrrrRRRrrr!

Even more videos and stuff after the jump...
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Little Superstar vs. Herbie Hancock


Bill Frisell in Bellingham

Can sound take on physical form? Does it have texture? How about temperature? Can one actually
taste music?

I expect to answer these questions, and other ones I haven't thought of yet, next week when Bill Frisell sits down to play his guitar in the redwood sanctuary of the Church House.
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Musica Obscura

Lesser-known music festivals in the Pacific Northwest

Northwest String Summit
July 18-20
Horning’s Hideout, North Plains, Oregon

For eight years running, the Northwest String Summit has been the west coast’s premier showcase of contemporary acoustic music, with leanings toward the jamgrass sound purveyed by the likes of String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band and Leftover Salmon. YMSB has evolved in to the head chieftains of this laid-back gathering in the countryside west of Portland and the quartet out of will be headlining all three nights with their unique funky-folk-bluegrass music.

YMSB have brought along a whole mess of friends to play too, including Keller Williams and the WMDs, Bill Frisell & Danny Barnes, Leftover’s Drew Emmitt with String Cheese’s Bill Nershi, Greensky Bluegrass, Bryn Davies, Great American Taxi and Burle Galloway. Expect massive cross-pollination between this tribe of talented players: bluegrass music has always favored spontaneous acts of jamming on traditional songs that everybody is expected to know – the canon of Bill Monroe, the Carter Family and Earl & Scruggs.. Part of the magic of seeing this music live is witnessing unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime combinations of musicians on stage together. Danny Barnes is leading an organized “Super Jam” on Sunday, but expect the camaraderie to last all weekend long.

Camping at Horning’s Hideout is a big part of the festival’s draw, and from what I hear, the venue is unsurpassed in natural beauty, kind community and user-friendliness. In addition to walk-in camping and an RV lot, there is also a family-friendly camping zone with quiet hours, an option that sounds appealing since I'll be making the trip with my 7 ½ year-old friend.

Shambhala Music Festival
August 6 – 11
Salmo River Ranch, BC

Bassnectar and the Glitch Mob will be there. Ana Stia and Breakbeattbuddha too. Bonobo and Ed Rush & Optical are coming all the way over from the UK, Ursula 1000 from New York and DJ Cheb I Sabbah from the Bay Area. Vibesquad, Skool of Thought, Jamie Janover, Ganga Girl and several dozens more are coming too. If you know anything about the music these bass warriors and dancefloor terrorists play, then you know that there's a mighty freaky festival in the works.

This annual gathering of hippies, neopagans, Burners and klub kids brings a heavy, sexy throb of visionary electronica music deep in to the Kootenay mountains in British Columbia. Over 10,000 get together for four nights they shake their bones beneath the starts, revolving through themed-stages like the Village, the Pagoda, the Labyrinth and the Fractal Forest. Then, in less than a month's time, most of these party people will reconnect with each other, and many of the same musicians, in Black Rock City for Burning Man. That helps explain the cryptic website, which describes Shambhala as "Arcadian pastures evolve into a futuresque setting on an epic scale" and cosmically explains that "encircled by nature, a community rises, sharing a common goal, celebrating a collective love and respect for music, art and humanity." Wait! There's even more! "This is the crucible of artistry and musical mayhem," the devotees insist, "This is the zenith of modern underground entertainment."

Hmm, Burning Man without the heat and dust, surrounded by wilderness in the clean mountain air. Sounds great to me, though I may have to leave the 7 ½ year-old behind for this one.
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I’m was at a BBQ yesterday for a friend’s birthday. Suffice to say I had a few drunken conversations, the one I remember was about karma. I realized that there was this huge disconnect between some of oldest friends and a very small band of merry burners (all of whom don’t know it).
Anyway I woke up this morning, checked out of my friends place and got on the Docklands Light Railway back to Stratford, East London. This is a cool little above ground train that runs really slowly through the docks, the business districts and finally the post industrial heartland of London’s eastend.
I’ve had your Destination Burning Man Trilogy  on my pod for a while but just haven’t been at the time and place. But trust me this was perfect. I put on Reintegration, as this train wound through equally beautiful business and residential districts. Most are deprived but on this sunny Sunday morning everything took on a new light. Particularly with the perfectly judged, wonderfully paced mix that you’ve created. I could go on about how I loved your choice of tracks (which I did) but that would be missing the main point. I got back from SF to London in Feb and I thought I had that playa feeling all the time. Yeah I was receptive but damn your mix has brought it all back. Not reintegration into the world but reintegration back into the fold. Back to feeling the power of potential. Good shit, my friend. Good shit. Keep it up.
Our camp this year is going that bit larger. Finally a theme camp. We’ll have a DJ rig with some decent soundpressure. It’d be a total pleasure if you could drop by, spin or just hang out.
Wanobi of Ohmland
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Esbjorn Svensson, leader of e.s.t., R.I.P.

Pianist Esbjorn Svensson dies last week in a scuba accident off the coast of his home country Sweden. An amazing, passionate and intelligent piano player, performer and composer, I was fortunate to catch his band e.s.t. at the Vancouver Jazz Festival a few years ago. Kidd Logic, Carol Freelander and I made the pilgrimage north to see them at the East VAncouver Cultural Centre ("the Cultch" if yer cool) and the concert really blew me away. The venue is very small with a tiny stage surrounded by close-in balconies full of people three-deep. Up in the balcony seats, you are pretty close to being right on top of the performers, and I was able to look down and watch Svensson's hands abuse his piano from a bird's-eye view. Breath-taking.

Marcey and I coincidentally were planning on seeing e.s.t. again, next week, once again at the Vancouver Jazz Festival. We have tickets for the show, which featured e.s.t. opening up for the John Scofield Trio. I was so close to seeing them again, but alas, it isn't meant to be.

I uploaded an amazing e.s.t. performance over at
the Live Archive. Click for more: a heartfelt tribute from a jazz critic in Enland....Keep Reading...

Black Cab Sessions & Blogotheque

I am absolutely in love with the Black Cab Sessions -- try out the set from My Morning Jacket for staters. The simplest ideas are so often the best.

In a similar vein, I am in love with the "live" sessions produced by French website La
Blogotheque. I've only had time to dig on the Jose Gonzalez set -- wow! how does he do that? -- but there are lots of tasty offerings from Caribou, Stephen Malkmus, Animal Collective, Taraf de Haiduks and other diverse musicians.Keep Reading...

Prince at Coachella

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His Holiness in the Pacific Northwest

As a result of the Dalai Lama's recent visit to the Pacific Northwest, I've been inspired to create, collect and share various sounds and words I've created to honor him and his work in this world. Here are some links to pages throughout this site that will hook you up with downloadable wisdom:

You can stream or download a podcast of his
2008 talk from Seattle here and his 2004 talk from Vancouver, B.C. here.

I wrote a story about the Dalai Lama's visit to Seattle for the Cascadia Weekly newspaper; it also discusses author Pico Iyer's new biopgraphy The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. You can view and/or download a pdf of the story right over here. Another story I wrote about the Dalai Lama's 2004 visit to Vancouver B.C. is available here.

Finally, DJ Fundi posted a mix entitled "A Lament for Tibet" featuring music from the Himalayan region at
the Podcast Cafe right here.


(updated 5/19/08)Keep Reading...

"Return of the Rock Lobsters"

By Marc Spitz/
The New York Times

(Listen to The B-52's live on stage in Montego Bay, Jamaica, circa 1982 and preview their new album "Funplex" over at the Podcast Cafe's Live Archive!)

A harsh wind is blowing around the four members of the B-52s as they view Lower Manhattan from a seventh-floor observation balcony at the New Museum, which rises over a nearby flophouse on a gentrifying stretch of the Bowery. From this height, they can see every newly opened bar, cafe and boutique. “The neighborhood didn’t look anything like this,” said the guitarist Keith Strickland, 54, referring to the late 1970s, when these new wave pioneers from Athens, Ga., first conquered the downtown rock scene. “I walked out this morning and said, ‘Where am I?’ ”
A few minutes earlier, the band, which also includes the vocalists Kate Pierson, 59, Cindy Wilson, 51, and Fred Schneider, 56, had traveled a few short blocks south from the retro-chic Bowery Hotel, which opened on the site of a former gas station last year. Along the way, the four had passed the shuttered storefront of CBGB, the punk club, now defunct, where fans in Fiorucci dresses and vintage sharkskin suits lined up to hear the band’s primal yet lyrically futurist dance-rock. “Oh, CBGBs,” Ms. Wilson said mournfully.

“Kiss it for luck,” Mr. Strickland said to Mr. Schneider.

“I’m not kissing that,” he replied with a mock shudder.

On the eve of “Funplex” (Astralwerks), the band’s first studio release in 16 years, the B-52s are reckoning with a new frontier that barely resembles the one they imagined on optimistic tracks like their 1983 single “Song for a Future Generation.” “We have to jump back into the void we left behind,” Mr. Schneider said. “We’ve gone through three different types of music eras or styles since we put out our last album. People watched MTV. Now everyone’s on the In-ter-net.”

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Erykah Badu's "New Amerykah"

Erykah Badu transforms the flotsam and jetsam of hip-hop.
by Sasha Frere-Jones/The New Yorker

On a Monday evening in August of 1996, I went to see the Roots perform at the Knitting Factory, in downtown Manhattan. The band had come from Philadelphia for a three-night stand in support of their “illadelph halflife” album. At one point during the set, I noticed a tall woman with an enormous head wrap standing in the front row of the crowd. Toward the end of the evening, the group’s bassist, Leonard (Hub) Hubbard, gestured for the woman to come onstage. The lead rapper, Tariq (Black Thought) Trotter, announced, “This is a friend of ours from Dallas, Texas. Her name is Erykah Badu.”Keep Reading...

MicroMoog Laboratories Worldwide

With much fanfare and revelry, MicroMoog Laboratories of Portland, Oregon celebrated their global digital debut with the release of an archival mixtape, digitized here at the Podcast Cafe and distributed on the Radio Free Fundi network

Here's what Head Moog DJ D. Frewing had to say about this milestone event:

Oh man the memories of making that tape are coming back as I listen to it.  I lived in a little apartment and had a $99 2 channel mixer and an old turntable of my Grandpa Lyle's.  The record came from the school library where I had my first school job in Hillsboro and they were throwing away filmstrip kits.  I would spend my lunch hour taking apart the boxes for the librarian to get the filmstrips and records.  It was a freaking treasure trove. The beats on that first song are from an old Simon Harris breakbeat CD.  All on the fly - this might be the first time I tried to scratch a record.  I wonder what year that was...

MicroMoog 20 year anniversary!  No shit.

Stream the mix
right here and enjoy an easy blend of jazz-funk and funk-jazz, accentuated by interludes featuring the aforementioned beats and homescratchin'. To subscribe to the Radio Free Fundi channel, add the following RSS feed in to iTunes (click Advanced > Subscribe to Podcast) or the podcast aggregator of your choice:

(I originally posted the incorrect feed -- this one should work!)

Enjoy, and leave a comment if you likes it!
DJ Fundi
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Dubstep revealed

Evolving and Mutating, Dubstep Splits Cells and Gives Life to Dance Floors

You could tell this wasn’t a normal dance party because the music kept doing something strange: stopping. The record would spin backward, the dancers would cheer, the D.J. would pause, and then the song would start again, from the top. This crowd-teasing technique — the rewind — has long been a major element of reggae concerts and parties. And as a few hundred dancers were reminded on Friday night, it also lives on in the reggae-influenced electronic genre known as dubstep, which has sprouted around London over the last few years.

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Thom Yorke & David Byrne

It seemed like a crazy idea. When Radiohead said it would release its new album, In Rainbows, as a pay-what-you-will digital download, you'd have thought the band had gone communist. After all, Thom Yorke and company are one of the world's most successful groups — a critical darling as well as a fan favorite for nearly 15 years. They hadn't put out a new album in more than four years, and the market was hungry for their next disc. So why would Radiohead conduct such a radical experiment?

It turns out the gambit was a savvy business move. In the first month, about a million fans downloaded
In Rainbows. Roughly 40 percent of them paid for it, according to comScore, at an average of $6 each, netting the band nearly $3 million. Plus, since it owns the master recording (a first for the band), Radiohead was also able to license the album for a record label to distribute the old-fashioned way — on CD. In the US, it goes on sale January 1 through TBD Records/ATO Records Group.

While pay-what-you-will worked for Radiohead, though, it's hard to imagine the model paying off for Miley Cyrus — aka chart-topping teenybopper Hannah Montana. Cyrus' label, Walt Disney Records, will stick to selling CDs in Wal-Mart, thank you very much. But the truth is that Radiohead didn't intend
In Rainbows to start a revolution. The experiment simply proves there is plenty of room for innovation in the music business — this is just one of many new paths. Wired asked David Byrne — a legendary innovator himself and the man who wrote the Talking Heads song "Radio Head" from which the group takes its name — to talk with Yorke about the In Rainbows distribution strategy and what others can learn from the experience.Keep Reading...