Giant Step’s Resident 45: Fischerspooner, Keys N Krates, Blaq Poet, Little Boots

keysBy Mawuse Ziegbe

The chance for the absurd is the reason droves of misfits migrate from middle America to Manhattan. So, I’m sure flaming fashionistas from Peoria would have been reveling at Fischerspooner’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. The arty, dance duo recently released their third album, Entertainment, a pulsing electronic epic that the group matched with an equally grand stage show. Be-wigged dancers slid in and out of jumpsuits, tutus and other fabric concoctions to the militaristic throb of songs like “The Best Revenge.” Even Madonna (the most famous ex-Midwesternite) braved outer-borough traffic, studiously watching the dancers flex to perfectly synced rehearsal footage. Easily the best show I’ve seen in ages.

Toronto collective Keys N Krates also brought an intense stage show to Williamsburg taking over the back room at Public Assembly. After a heartbreakingly terrible show by Planet Rump (I thought I was watching a Mad TV sketch) Keys N Krates knocked out live remixes of classic jammy jams. With a DJ, drums, bass, and guitar, the band reinterpreted gems like Mos Def’s “Ms. Fat Booty” and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Check The Rhime,” often banging out a riff of the song’s obscure sample. They also shook up a downtempo version of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” with frisky syncopation and throwback scratching.

The king of livening up any flaccid track with murderous scratching is DJ Premier. At a recent listening session for Queens artist Blaq Poet he vowed to bring back the coarse, wiry beats of yesteryear. Blaq Poet’s latest album The Blaqprint is a cacophony of cagey rhythms and heavy lyrics coursing with the gritty, boot-stomping, ashy-knuckle allure of hip hop artists like M.O.P. and Mobb Deep. I mean, I love me some Soulja Boy, but I kinda miss when rappers used the word “glock” and post-apocalyptic decay seemed to influence the set design of all hip hop videos.

At least when it comes to real hip hop ish, we have Little Boots! Okay, I was making funny. But she did make a genius piano cover of Kid Cudi’s “Day N Nite” and has been enchanting fans with YouTube covers of songs by Cyndi Lauper and Lightspeed Champion often shot from the comfort of her bedroom. Already topping charts in her native UK, she had a rapturous public waiting at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge. However, her live show was sadly upstaged by her outsize buzz and rollicking openers, Heartsrevolution. A barefoot drummer pounding inhuman BPMs, a wailing frontwoman swilling from a bottle of Jack the size of her head, and shimmery dance rhythms of rave-like proportions preemptively kicked Little Boots’ behind. The intimate, cheeky dazzle of her viral videos was completely lost amongst the heaving screams and flashing lights. Even though the crowd panted along to songs like her single “New In Town,” her walk-around-and-sing-the-hits routine didn’t pack enough of a wallop to convert newbies. Not enough to get droves clamoring from Peoria.

Giant Step’s Resident 43: Jack Peñate, Asher Roth, Buraka Som Sistema, Chrisette Michele

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Photo of Asher Roth (c) Hannibal Matthews

By Mawuse Ziegbe

One of my favorite songs right now is Jack Peñate’s calypso-laced “Tonight’s Today.” The cheery percussion is buoyed by a heady choir, balmy guitar, plucky Kalimba and possibly the best of the use cowbell since The Rapture. A pale English kid with artfully mussed hair who’s besties with stars like Adele and The Maccabees, his 2007 debut Matinee features jittery rock with faint doses of ska tossed in for good measure. But any pouty kid with a garage and some guyliner can churn out guitar-driven pop. Cheers to Jack and his beachy jam; I raise my Mai-Tai in praise.

Another music man I must toast is Asher Roth. (Yes, that stoner kid with that stoner anthem, “I Love College.”) He and Chester French rocked the Blender Theater the day after the release of his debut, Asleep In The Bread Aisle. And I had so much fun! He and his equally blithe crew ripped songs like “Lion’s Roar” and “Be By Myself.” The band joined him for a quick rendition of Soul For Real’s “Candy Rain,” complete with the cheese-laden ’90s dance moves and then Beanie Sigel bounded out of irrelevancy to kick a verse. When the crowd erupted during “She Don’t Want A Man,” the flail of uncoordinated frat-boy arms was almost poetic. I was truly converted when he fired off a pro-organic food freestyle that both dropped jaws and silenced nonbelievers. The gleefully drunken college kid thing usually screams shallow, trendy hype but I really can’t hate on this. Sometimes, blonds just have more fun.

And if you’re into fun your new favorite band is Buraka Som Sistema. The Portuguese collective infuses the snappy Angolan genre of Kuduro with gritty club beats on their LP Black Diamond. They gripped a sold-out Bowery Ballroom with their urgent dance-or-die rhythms. I’ve posted up in more than a few venues but I’ve never seen New Yorkers go batshit like that. The group is officially four dudes but guest frontwoman/dancer/party-starter MC Blaya shut it down with her tremulous booty. The crowd bounced en masse, yelping along to hits like “Sounds Of Kuduro” and Buraka barely left the stage before the revelers whooped for an encore. Then, while DJ Sega gracefully crowd-surfed, the rest of the band splattered the audience with a Super Soaker.

Also doing the tour thing is Grammy-winning songstress Chrisette Michele. Her jazzy style harks back to that gin-swishing, smoking coat era when dames were dames and she flaunted her sass throughout her hour-long BB King’s set with angsty anecdotes about men who done done her wrong. With her platinum pixie and prefacing of “Best Of Me” with “has anyone ever fallen in love with an idiot?” she read like an adult contemporary Etta James. She also chatted about her John Legend collaboration, “Love Is You” breezed through her boppy single “Epiphany,” and enjoyed a brief guest appearance from Danity Kane’s D. Woods. Even with post-breakup bitterness, a 45-minute wait and random pop vixen cameos, the crowd was enamored with her. And that’s what makes a dame, a dame.

Jesse Boykins III Interview + MP3 Download

jb3The Beauty Created: An Interview With Singer Jesse Boykins III
By Mawuse Ziegbe, Photo (c) J. Shotti

No one has more swoon-worthy finesse than Jesse Boykins III. With his breathy intonations, boyish hustle and collaborations with artists like Melo-X and Theophilus London; he’s making noise in a soul music scene aching for something classic and new. In an age where vocals course through vocoders and double-clicks rule the DJ booth, Boykin’s New School-bred production and arrangement skills are both novel and necessary. His second album The Beauty Created is awash in richly textured instrumentation and driven by Jesse’s lyrical adoration of a woman’s quirks. Giant Step spoke with the Miami native about ’90s boy bands, working out with Bilal and, of course, the fairer sex.
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Giant Step’s Resident 42: Peter Bjorn And John, Melo-X, Omar, Maiysha and Phil Asher

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Photo of Phil Asher © Jaecyne Howell

A most curious thing occurred at the office one day. Ambling down the halls I happened upon a bin of unwanted swag. While it’s usually chock full of crap like cookbooks by convicted felons and posters of small-town yokels named Lil’ No No, this time teetering at the top of the heap were three albums from artists that apparently no one else in the office cared about: 88-Keys, Peter Bjorn & John and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ roiling SNL performance the week before was the highlight of my recent sojourn to Boston and I’ve been diggin’ the shimmery, disco gloss they’ve slathered on their signature reckless glammy rock. I’m all over the way the slightly sinister opening strains set up the rumbling and unexpectedly groovy “Dragon Queen.”

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SXSW 2009: Kanye West, Common, Erykah Badu, Devo, Red Riders, Big Boi and More

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Kanye West at the Levi’s/Fader Fort © Seher Sikandar

SXSW 2009: Kanye West, Common, Erykah Badu, Devo, Red Riders, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, Big Boi, Janelle Monáe, Chin Chin, Beach House, Solange, Kid Cudi

Austin’s South By Southwest Festival is four days of new bands eking out a following and amplifying their buzz while established acts assert their influence or grasp at a comeback. Giant Step’s Resident Mawuse Ziegbe took in as much of the long lines, late nights and musical highs as she could. Here’s her review of a weekend of sounds in the South.

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