M. Recommends: “La Nave del Olvido” by José José

El Principe de la Canción.

I’ve been a professional musician since I was a child; from the very first time my grandfather made me climb a stage at age 8 (at a wedding, no less), I just know this is my thing. My main instrument is bass, but I can play percussions, keyboards, and other string instruments, which is an advantage if you don’t want to starve to death in Mexico’s difficult music environment. Yes, everyone is my mom’s side of the family is a musician, and they’ve been involved in musica tropical (think salsa, cumbia, merengue, rumba) for generations. My mom is a singer and singing coach herself, and her vast knowledge of ballads has informed my perspective on music for as long as I can remember.

Despite playing instruments for years and years, I had never thought of myself as much of a singer, and yet, I’m mainly known in my hometown for being the vocalist of my current band. A few months ago, we decided to play a tribute show to José José, perhaps Mexico’s most legendary crooner. I studied his discography religiously, I went to my mother’s entire collection of cassettes for different versions of his songs (from him and other performers), and became obsessed with his live recordings. Simply put, the man in his prime was a monster. I just couldn’t believe how frustratingly clean his live vocals were. I wanted to do this right, but I eventually had to face the fact that my voice just wasn’t as perfect; you see, José José comes from a jazz tradition, but he was also classically-trained —  his father was a tenor and his mother an organist — and that puts a special emphasis on solfège and pitch perfection. Singing a José José cover is a daunting task for anyone, let alone a guy like me who’s not a natural singer.

I love “La Nave del Olvido,” José José’s first big hit, for its 3/4 rhythm, his brilliant phrasing, but most importantly, for how freakin’ massive the chorus is. The expectation created by the line “espera un poco,” the pause, and then the powerful “un poquiiiiiiiito más” is just anthemic, immortal, transcendent. All that momentum, all that emotional energy. José José’s take on Dino Ramos’ ballad was not the first; the song was already a hit in South America by Venezuelan singer Mirtha Pérez, but to be honest, her version pales in comparison with that from El Principe. Back in 1969, his label planned this song to go to Spanish singer Dyango — he was the bigger name and an already established hitmaker in his homeland — but José lobbied hard for it. He even sneaked into a recording studio to bring his rendition forward. It quietly became a hit, and little by little, it conquered the entire continent.

It’s the song that created the legend.

(Song recommendation by M. de la Rosa)

Iris Recommends: “Marching Bands of Manhattan” by Death Cab For Cutie

Ask me where in Italy I grew up, and the answer will be a variation of middle of nowhere, you won’t know it, let’s change the subject (you’ve never heard of the place, I promise). Ask me what’s the nearest important city and I’ll tell you there isn’t one: to get anywhere worth going, you’ll need a car and at least an hour.

My early twenties involved a fair share of Death Cab songs played while driving on winter nights, heating at full blast, speeding through empty roads with nothing but fields in sight for miles. “Marching Bands” carried me straight where lack of prospects and flight anxiety had no intention of taking me; I swallowed its words like shots at a party, as if I could wind up on the other side of the ocean if I got intoxicated enough.

The opening verses spoke of a Manhattan I doubted I’d ever see, and therefore could picture just as I liked. Maybe it wasn’t as insufferably cold and rainy as my hometown. Maybe it was the kind of city I imagined I’d thrive in: big enough to never feel dull, to lose myself into and not be found unless I wanted it. Until the next stretch of orange lamplight came into view, I could pretend I was heading to a place just like that. The streets I knew like the back of my hand could be anywhere. Cloaked in the darkness of the cabin, I could be anyone and the truth didn’t hurt as much: just like a faucet that leaks, and there is comfort in the sound.

Over a decade, one move abroad and some thousands of air miles later, the beam of headlights on a deserted road is still the first image “Marching Bands” brings to my mind. These days I listen to it through headphones, on the top decks of red buses or on crowded tube platforms; on my own, but never really alone. It feels a bit surreal. I tell myself it’s because I’ve come a long way.

(Song recommendation by Iris)

Seigar Recommends: “Everyroad” by Parcels

Like The Beatles, Parcels ready for the flying invasion.

Seigar, the photographer, is back.

Can I have 8 minutes of your time? OK, so scroll down, press play and come back to read my thoughts on this track.

Parcels is a Berlin-based Aussie band that signed for a French electronic music record label. They are also a Daft Punk’s protegee band. This is maybe the most delicate data about their music, because the French group influences them too much. It can’t be considered a copycat, but the sound is quite similar; and this wonderful song is an example.

Their debut record has received great reviews everywhere. Critics find this album quite timeless and epic, but with a clear 70s touch. These guys make an electro funky music that sounds like summer. Songs, lyrics and their polished image work.

The lyrics on this one suceed creating, describing and taking us to a space full of existentialism. The confessions we hear are “selections from interviews conducted with three unique characters found in Berlin,” the group told Conquesence of Sound about this track. The physical details are visual and can be felt with all the senses. Nature and arquitecture lead to an abstract world:

All of the ghosts, people you love
Even your friends don’t want to know
But you can depend on every note
Over the end of every road
I keep a dungeon for the darker thoughts
To cleanse myself, to be able to go downstairs and scream

The experimental bridges and changes in this song keep the interest, it’s like their Bohemian Rhapsody. Wait until the final third to enjoy those beats that remind me of Mirwais or Jim James.

(Song recommendation by Seigar)

K Recommends: “Delicate Cycle” by The Uncluded

Parts of this write-up may seem familiar if you read my recent Our Lady Peace feature: a selfless friend/radio mentor, a much-loved family man in his 40s, a health anomaly… all coincidental. I even have one more similar story to tell sometime after this one…

Drazzle was a DJ’s DJ. When I started my radio show in 2011, I could count on him for moral support, answering technical questions or talking about music interests. Before I became a DJ he was a friendly, welcoming fixture on the airwaves and in the chatroom. He had 3 shows spanning genres like Celtic punk, blues, Americana, soul, country, and indie. It amazed me how Drazzle would often listen and cheer on many of us regardless of where we broadcast our shows over time.

I started another show, periodically presenting songs selected by listeners. Drazzle was my upcoming featured listener and sent me 5 songs on October 12, 2013. He hadn’t been doing his shows with regularity. His physically demanding job had landed some coworkers in the ER. Not one to complain, he asked more about my next show.

The following evening I got a call from another DJ. He shared distressing news that Drazzle had died earlier that day from a sudden heart event. I had now lost two good radio friends in a year. My show in the days that followed became a tribute. DJs, relatives, and listeners contributed requests along with his pre-selected block of songs.

A song I will forever associate with Drazzle was one he sent the day before he passed. When I played “Delicate Cycle” by The Uncluded (Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock) on his tribute show, everyone wanted to know more and enjoyed the quirkiness of his song choice.

Here’s to David Scott Rasile who brought music to the masses with kind, genuine interest. There’s no doubt his afterlife includes a vintage jukebox with endless 45s.

A gentle reminder to all: life is indeed a delicate cycle.

(Song recommendation by K Weber)