[Cheap and Cheerful]: Cody ChesnuTT

cody-chesnutt-lo-res-press-photo-2“Know how to stay fly in the hardest times, But what we don’t know is that ain’t gonna be enough”

What’s better than discovering great music? Discovering it’s free as well. Cheap and Cheerful intermittently throws free downloads your way for continued listening pleasure that doesn’t break the bank.

Seen most recently supporting neo-soul Q.U.E.E.N. and fellow Atlantan Janelle Monae on tour, Cody ChesnuTT has also been carving out his own distinctive brand of rock ‘n’ soul in recent years. After splitting from L.A. rockers The Crosswalk in 2000, ChesnuTT set up a makeshift studio in his bedroom and sequestered himself for several months with a handful of instruments and a 4-track recorder to produce 2002’s critically acclaimed double album The Headphone Masterpiece. A genre hopping gumbo indebted to a love of rock ‘n’ roll, The Headphone Masterpiece turned a lot of heads with its prodigious musicality and lo-fi aesthetic, landing ChesnuTT on tours with Erykah Badu and The Roots. A subsequent guest slot on The Roots’s Phrenology for their cover of ChesnuTT’s ‘The Seed’, an appearance in Dave Chapelle’s Block Party and electrifying live performances only added to his growing cult status, yet ChesnuTT would not put out his second full-length album for another ten years. Following a quiet period of family life and reflection, punctuated by the release of Black Skin No Value EP in 2010, ChesnuTT returned with the smoking hot Landing On A Hundred in 2012. True to his bedroom basics roots, ChesnuTT has now chosen to make the Kickstarter funded album available for free over at Noisetrade, parcelled up with guest remixes and juicy outtakes from recording sessions at Memphis’s Royal Studios.

Like its predecessor, Landing On A Hundred covers a wide range of musical flavours and life issues, from socially conscious jams like ‘Under the Spell of the Handout’s honky-tonk funk and the gospel redemption of ‘Everybody’s Brother’, to ‘That’s Still Mama’s inner city holler and the sweet Sam Cooke-isms of ‘Love Is More Than a Wedding Day’. Meanwhile, the B-sides and remixes reveal even further scope and depth. The softly caressing lullaby of ‘Listen’ is counterpointed by country-blues stomper ‘Gunpowder On The Letter’, featuring searing leads from Gary Clark Jr., while in the hands of The Roots drummer and frontman Questlove ‘What Kind Of Cool’s shuffling beat is slowed to a soporific haze and an Eddie Hazel-worthy fuzzed-up solo leads out of the fog. Make no mistake, it’s a headphone masterpiece worth checking out

Landing On A Hundred is out now through Vibration Vineyard/One Little Indian and is available for free download here. Cody ChesnuTT is currently on a European tour, find dates here.

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[Cheap and Cheerful]: Propaganda

propaganda“You searching for new mountains to climb as if you conquered the first one / You ain’t done, you just comfy”

What’s better than discovering great music? Discovering it’s free as well. Cheap and Cheerful intermittently throws free downloads your way for continued listening pleasure that doesn’t break the bank.

How many times have you heard this story? Young turk overcomes the gang culture inherent in his hometown through gaining a reputation as a ferocious battle rapper before coming to prominence as part of an influential rap collective. While this is undoubtedly a major part of Propaganda’s career, who joined L.A. mega-crew The Tunnel Rats as its youngest member, it only tells half of his story. Born Jason Petty to a Vietnam veteran father involved with The Black Panther Party, Props grew up steeped in the Latino culture of a violent neighbourhood before becoming a classroom teacher and community service leader. While cutting his teeth rapping he started frequenting spoken word poetry nights and was struck by the lyrical complexity and captivating directness poetry had over the rapping of his colleagues. He quickly became a regular performer at open mic poetry night A Mic & Dim Lights and used poetry and his love of folk music to hone his raps into intelligent social commentaries. This complex mix of influences evident in his music has lead to him becoming a highly respected artist in the L.A. underground scene, opening for KRS-One and De La Soul, and can best be heard on his recent fourth album Crimson Cord.

Over dark beats which owe a debt to Radiohead and Explosions In The Sky as much as to hip-hop, Propaganda delivers fiery attention-grabbing missives that bring Saul Williams and Michael Franti to mind. Given his widespread influences and experiences it’s no surprise that Props touches on diverse issues of faith, race and identity over Crimson Cord. ‘Bored of Education’ dissects education systems that fail its students while ‘I Don’t See It’ is an open letter against complacency. In his thought-provoking commentaries Props is as rigorous on his own preconceptions as those of others, and on ‘Three Cord Bond’ he analyses his own past prejudices and offers an open-eyed message of racial unity. The album ends with ‘Tell Me Yours’, an autobiography in under four minutes where Props gives dedications to all his decisive life influences and challenges you to share your story with him. An appropriate close for an artist who stresses strength through unity and challenging the received notions that come blaring out of every socket in the modern world: This is his truth, now you tell him yours.

Crimson Cord is out now through Humble Beast and is available for free download here.

[Cheap and Cheerful]: PHOX

phox2

What’s better than discovering great music? Discovering it’s free as well. Cheap and Cheerful intermittently throws free downloads your way for continued listening pleasure that doesn’t break the bank.

With the worst of winter’s frosts behind us and the temperature hovering around 10°C where I am it might be safe to say that spring has sprung and that the weather is, dare I say it, quite good! What better way to celebrate that than with some sunshine-infused pop from Wisconsinite collective PHOX? Hailing from Baraboo, WI, they describe themselves on their bandcamp as “a gaggle of goofy wizards performing minor illusions and bigtop music”. While that description might seem fanciful there is an air of wide-eyed wonder and big possibilities they weave into their music, and this is nowhere more apparent than on their live set from last year’s iTunes Festival, which has been made available for free/name-your-price over at NoiseTrade.

Performing tracks from their Unblushing and Confetti EP’s, this offering is short and sweet, but above all memorable. Powered by a mini-orchestra assortment of instruments and seamless vocal harmonies, the multi-instrumental PHOX create chirpy and charming earworms with a bit of depth that stay put long after listening. There’s also room for moments of drama and slow, building movements though, as on standout track ‘Blue and White’ which sees principal vocalist Monica Martin deliver a powerful lighters aloft performance. For this band to have made it onto the iTunes Festival listings with only two EP’s under their belts points to something special, and with a debut album in the works at April Base, home studio of Bon Iver mastermind Justin Vernon, I think you can expect PHOX to be making a few waves when it lands in the summer.

PHOX Live at iTunes Festival is available for free from the good folks over at NoiseTrade. Find it here.

[Cheap and Cheerful]: Four Tet – Live in Tokyo

Four-Tet2

What’s better than discovering great music? Discovering it’s free as well. Cheap and Cheerful intermittently throws free downloads your way for continued listening pleasure that doesn’t break the bank.

Recently I’ve found myself listening repeatedly to this live set from Kieran Hebden a.k.a. Four Tet, recorded at Tokyo’s Yebisu Garden Hall on 1st December. Maybe it’s the fluid alchemy of dance, jazz, R&B and house or the subtle confidence of Hebden’s DJing, feeling no need to petition the crowd and trusting in their patience while he steadily weaves his magic, but there is something compelling in this mid-afternoon set which rewards repeated listens. It fosters a zen-like state and possesses a striking simplicity that belies the complexity of layering and manipulation at work over the hour. Perhaps that is why Hebden elected to upload it to Soundcloud and enable free downloads, satisfied by a set where, seemingly, everything went off without a hitch.

[Cheap and Cheerful]: Foy Vance

foy-vance-1-hi-resHope is a sword with both sides as sharp as the other / And it cuts you of course and it cuts to the heart”

Welcome to a feature I have much neglected, Cheap & Cheerful, where I throw songs and albums your way which artists have provided for free download, or pay-what-you-feel. Expect more of these in future because your pockets are probably nearly as empty as mine and, if you’re anything like me, free tunes brighten any gloomy day.

On a sunny bank holiday Monday (at least it is where I am), you need music to match the occasion. Into my playlist today dropped this wee gem from Bangor-born folk singer Foy Vance, which fit the bill perfectly. A product of his musical upbringing, listening to folk songs from home and travelling the American South and Midwest with his preacher father, Vance’s blend of Transatlantic influences has earned him tour spots with Bonnie Raitt (who offers backing vocals on You and I) and fellow  Communion label acolytes Michael Kiwanuka and Marcus Foster. His songs have also been featured on Grey’s Anatomy and Rom-Zom-Com Warm Bodies (interesting concept handled really well, definitely worth a watch).

Dark Horse, a B-side from Vance’s imminent second album, Joy of Nothing, is an understated and uplifting strummer which lilts and soars as you listen. Consisting only of Vance’s guitar and compelling vocals with some tasteful bass fills, Dark Horse‘s simplicity recalls the spare directness which characterised the songwriting of 60’s troubadours. Indeed, the song’s opening shows the unmistakable influence of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, seeming like it will jump into the line ‘If I ventured in the slipstream…’ at any moment while the slinky bass fills sound as if they came courtesy of Richard Davis himself. The easy-going strummer style of the track may be too simplistic for some, but there is no denying the catchy and moving honesty of the song which carries you along. Vance’s versatile voice floats with the music here, where on other tracks it can rattle and shake. The lyrics themselves are characterised by a melancholy which is tempered by pragmatic optimism: This is the way things are, we may as well make the most of it.  This in itself could be said to be the lyrical theme of Joy of Nothing as a whole, for Vance’s songs are heartbreakers, but there is hope in there to be sure. Hope, above all else.

Joy of Nothing is out today through Glassnote Records. Dark Horse is available to listen and download through NoiseTrade

[Artist Spotlight]: Delta Spirit

“I want you to wander silent past my outstretched arms”

Delta Spirit are a band from California that have been active since 2005, but which I have only recently got around to listening to. I am currently making up for lost time since I have become somewhat addicted to their infectious blend of Americana, Soul and Punk. Considering they have recently released their eponymous album last month, it feels appropriate to give them a plug and talk about one of their songs I’ve had on near constant rotation: ‘California’.

‘California’ is a driving song. No two ways about it. The relentless rhythm of the song perfectly soundtracks driving down the road with the top down and with one arm hanging down the side, watching the miles disappear from under you. The song begins slowly with a steady drum beat before erupting into a tidal wave of guitars. These then drop away into the spacious verses, occupied mainly by echoing guitars and Matthew Vasquez’s yearning vocals urging you to “Move to California for yourself, / But not for me”. The track then shifts gears once again and accelerates into the uplifting chorus, complete with wailing guitars and Beach Boys-esque vocal melodies. It seems to hint at a new breed of surf pop, with distorted guitars, pounding drums and pulsing synths as the foundations. Suffice to say, I think I may have found my soundtrack to the coming summer.

Grab yourself a copy of the song, along with other decent tracks by Delta Spirit and WATERS, on a six track tour EP here.

[Cheap & Cheerful]: ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror Mixtape

‘We used to sleep on the beach, sleep over night. They don’t do it any more.’

Well, the festival season is well and truly upon us and pretty much everyone has planned their summer around their chosen weekend of debauchery. If, like me, you were greeted the other day by your tickets to Alexandra Palace for 23rd-24th July then you are no doubt getting excited for the first UK All Tomorrows Parties sister fest I’ll Be Your Mirror curated by Portishead. I’ve been itching to see Portishead for a couple of years now, though they are famously reluctant to tour. So being able to not only go see them, but also go to a festival the band have organised and chosen the line up for is, pardon the phrase: ‘A Dream Come True’.

So for those who need a little something to get them in the IBYM frame of mind, or simply could do with a little Portishead, Godspeed, Grinderman, PJ Harvey and Doom (previously MF Doom) in their life, ATP have released a free mixtape from the official website. It’s an awesome and heady mix stitched together in a single two hour MP3 for old school mixtape style. However, for those who want to go to the effort of editing it down into its constituent tracks, or simply want to see what lies in store, I’ll post the track listing at the bottom. Get it while it’s free people!

See you in Alexandra Palace!

  • 00.00 “…They Don’t Sleep Anymore on the Beach…” / Monheim – Godspeed You! Black Emperor
  • 13.19 We Carry On – Portishead
  • 19.44 A Cold Freezin’ Night – The Books
  • 23.04 Gazzillion Ear – Doom
  • 27.15 You Fucking People Make Me Sick – Swans
  • 32.20 Yang Yang – Anika
  • 35.11 Real Love – Factory Floor
  • 42.32 Infinity Skull Cube – DD/MM/YYYY
  • 45.51 Untilted – Helen Money
  • 51.42 “Four Spirits In A Room” Excerpt – Alan Moore & Stephen O’Malley
  • 56.50 Plaster Casts Of Everything – Liars
  • 60.43 8 Steps To Perfection – Company Flow
  • 65.23 Written On The Forehead – PJ Harvey
  • 68.49 Arabic Emotions – The London Snorkelling Team
  • 71.27 Wulfstan – BEAK>
  • 77.28 When My Baby Comes – Grinderman
  • 84.09 Paris Signals – S.C.U.M.
  • 88.30 Lovers With Iraqis – Foot Village
  • 92.18 Gratitude – Acoustic Ladyland
  • 96.29 Violence – The Telescopes
  • 100.01 Hannibal – Caribou
  • 106.15 Walk In The Park – Beach House