Mark Ronson Review: Uptown Special

Mark Ronson

Uptown Special

 uptown

2014 was a big year for producers and artists switching roles with a lot of success. Ryan Adams and Beck both produced parts of Jenny Lewis’s wonderful The Voyager. The Black Keys continued to each produce plenty of work, with Auerbach almost single-handedly saving the Lana Del Rey record, and Patrick Carney making the Black Lips latest album bluesy and dirty. On the other hand, Pharrell, one half of legendary hip hop production team the Neptunes, released his second solo album in Girl, with huge summer hits in “Happy” and “Come Get it Bae”. Experimental hip hop and electronic producers Arca and Rustie both released great solo albums. Finally, the winter welcomed in the lead single of Mark Ronson, nostalgic English producer best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Adele, the wonderful throwback jam of “Uptown Funk”. The bite-sized but largely talented Bruno Mars is used to full capacity, a swaggering tour-de-force vocal performance behind an electric funk band.
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Mark Ronson “Daffodils” Review

Mark Ronson

“Daffodils (featuring Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker)”

Mark Ronson and Kevin Parker's "Daffodil"

 

My latest obsession comes from one of my favorite producers and one of my favorite singers, but with the producer (Mark Ronson) as the main artist and singer (Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker) as the contributor.

For those unfamiliar, Mark Ronson is a retro-leaning producer that has played a huge role in a number of hits and hit musicians in the past two decades, namely being a big reason for the late Amy Winehouse’s success as well as responsible for hits by Adele, Bruno Mars, Lily Allen, Christina Aguilera, and many others. Mark Ronson also produced my favorite album from the Black Lips in Arabia Mountain, bringing some much needed pop sensibility to the Southern punks. Mark Ronson has released three of his own solo pop records, including the wonderfully fun Record Collection, released in 2010.
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Kevin Parker is the voice, guitar, and brains behind my favorite psychedelic rock band, Tame Impala, who released my favorite album of 2012 in their sophomore effort Lonerism. Parker and Tame Impala have been paired with David Fridmann, the producer known for the psychedelic and wild sounds of the Flaming Lips among others, so the idea of pairing Parker’s voice with more of a hit maker producer is pretty intriguing.

Parker is set to add vocals to three songs off of Ronson’s upcoming 2015 album, Uptown Special, which also features Bruno Mars (with the instant hit “Uptown Funk”), Miike Snow’s Andrew Wyatt, and others. “Daffodils” is a propulsive disco track which is too catchy to deny. The four-on-the-floor disco beat and the funky guitar riff pushes Parker’s voice along through a field of psychedelic noises, both inviting and disturbing.

Considering Ronson is known for a more hit-ready production, it’s actually a bit surprising how effects-laden this song is. The leading funk riff and the falsetto vocal of Parker make this sound like it’s coming out of a jukebox in a warped dream. The song builds with synthesizer freak-outs that threaten to detour or derail the song throughout, but actually just provide another facet of this song to explore. You can enjoy this song strictly on a pop/disco level, and also on a deeper level, digging into what effects are being added, taken out, and how the song advances so wonderfully.

Mark Ronson, like you, puts on his pants one leg at a time, but like Bruce Dickinson, when his pants are on, he makes gold records! “Daffodils” is Ronson applying his pop knack to the psychelic rock world, and I can’t wait to hear more.

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P.S. If you missed it, Mark Ronson is coming off a dynamite SNL performance with Bruno Mars and the long-awaited return of eccentric rapper Mystikal. See the performance of “Feel Right” below.

Top Ten Thursday: Best Bonnaroo Acts of 2013

Bonnaroo, main stage, 2013, Paul McCartney

This one is pretty self explanatory. As our final recap of the event, here is our favorite acts of our favorite festival. I’ll give you a hint, Mumford and Sons didn’t make the list … or did they.

 

10. Tame Impala
Tame Impala, live, Bonnaroo, 2013

Tame Impala’s groovy Aussie vibes translate well to the stage. Especially for an afternoon festival setting. There is no doubt these guys will only be growing in fans as the years progress. I wouldn’t be surprised seeing them graduate to a stage soon enough.
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Top Ten Thursday: Best Psychedelic Albums of All Time

psychedelic music

With the music trend increasingly shifting back to psychedelic rock lately, we decided to put our heads together to come up with our favorite psychedelic rock albums of ever. Surprisingly enough, every album on our list was released pre-1979 except Wes’ miss. I guess 60’s and 70’s were just a bit more focused on keeping their listeners really high … high on serotonin levels that is … because everyone of these albums will keep you happy as a clam. Many modern psychedelic albums were considered; Black Mountain, Foxygen, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Tame Impala. In fact, Flaming Lips and Kurt Vile’s new albums were actually the inspiration. Nonetheless, the below are the albums we think best satisfies those moments you really just need a nice hit of psychedelics:
10. Moby Grape – Moby Grape
Moby Grape, album cover, Moby Grape
Moby Grape’s debut album was an early forerunner to the groovy San Francisco vibes that we all came to know and love. Moby Grape is an often overlooked album, especially when considered how many folk psychedelic acts came to follow suite.
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Individual Best of 2012 Lists

Twin Shadow Confess Best Album of 2012 cover artEl-P Cancer 4 Cure Best Album of 2012 cover arttame impala, lonerism, album, cover, art

We gave you are collective Top 20 songs and albums of 2012 yesterday, but here are our separate lists:
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LxL’s Best Albums of 2012

Top 20 Best Albums of 2012 including El-P, Jack White, and Fiona Apple

2012 turned out to be a pretty great year in music.  I think all three of us would agree the offerings in 2012 were deep in really good albums, without many albums rising to the level of true greatness.  That being said, I think I would rather have a pool of 60-80 really good albums come out in a year than 9-10 great albums.  Around here, we like variety, and we certainly got it this year.  There was a surprisingly surge of good hip-hop released in the second half of the year (Killer Mike, Nas, Meek Mill).  There was the long-awaited return of all-timer female singer songwriter types (Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Regina Spektor).  And there were also several much-anticipated sophomore wide releases (Sleigh Bells, Tame Impala, Beach House, Twin Shadow).  All in all, there may not have been a lot of perfect albums this year, but it was still a great year in music.  Enjoy the top 20.
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LxL’s Best Songs of 2012

Songs and Artists of 2012

Well, after a short Holiday hiatus, we are back! And our end of year coverage continues with the most difficult list to assemble: our favorite songs of 2012. Why is a songs list so difficult to construct you say? Because there is so friggin’ many of them, it’s very hard to reach a consensus. For example we may absolutely love two songs on an album fairly equally, like First Aid Kit’s “Lions Roar” and “EmmyLou”, but we might split our vote causing neither to make the list. But even with the challenging aspects of making this list, it was a blast to make and look back at all the songs that colored our year. Here are our favorites:

20. AlunaGeorge – “Your Drums, Your Love”


New London electronic duo AlunaGeorge, consisting of singer Aluna Francis and producer George Reid (naturally), hit the electronic field by storm in 2012 with an EP and hopes of a full-length to come in the upcoming year. “Your Drums, Your Love” wrings of the slick, wry, and pretty production that Lilly Allen brings to the table, but with an added dimension of electronic touches and an unshakable chime of voices repeating “your drums” to take it over the top.
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