Do you know how many hip hop or R&B albums are on my phone?
I prefer instrumentals, so a lot of the music I’ve enjoyed in the past has been along those lines. As contradictory as it might seem for someone who enjoys writing, I rarely pay attention to lyrics. I hear the notes being sung, and the way they fit into the rest of the music, but I might as well be listening to an adult talk to Charlie Brown. I probably have to listen to a song fifty times before I can even attempt to sing along. (Even then, I’ll most likely try to find the lyrics online or I wind up singing homonyms for half the words.)
Recently, that’s been changing. The past couple of years, I’ve been listening to more and more artists that make me want to examine their lyrics as much as I do the compositions underneath them.
AndrewLIVE and Arnob Bal are two of those artists.
Together, anyway. I’ve been following Bal
for a while, and his latest venture LIVE from the 32ndFloor
is typical (but objectively exceptional) of the quality sound I’ve come to expect from him. Working with AndrewLIVE and some other talented artists, this album has been on my wish list for a while and I haven’t been disappointed.
I went in knowing nothing about AndrewLIVE
, which turned out to be regrettable because I now realize I’ve been ignorant of a great Toronto artist. Well, he and Bal are both from St. John’s, but you know what I mean. Going in, I figured that I’d slip into my usual “half-ignore lyrics” vibe the first time through. Double back, check it out again with some words in front of me.
I was sold maybe thirty seconds into “Prelude,” the first track on the album.
Immediately, I could tell that it wasn’t going to be the sort of music production reliant on a simple beat and a couple of instruments. This is a complex, layered sound that AndrewLIVE complements beautifully. I wouldn’t expect anything less of Arnob Bal, and he’s the reason I was listening to the album in the first place. But if I’m being honest? What hooked me right off the bat more than anything else was AndrewLIVE’s words.
I’m thinking that even though I’ve only met him once, AndrewLIVE and I have a lot in common. I can hear my generation in his lyrics. Our frustration with the world around us. Our desire to be great because of, or in spite of, being told as children that we are all special (and thus, no one is). The dissonance between what we’ve been told about the world, the way things really are here, and what we want for ourselves. I mean, someone sings a song about unrequited love or something equally accessible, sure. We all have enough in common that it’s not very hard to make connections in music. It’s another thing to be sure by the end of the intro that the artist gets you.
|Arnob Bal on keys, Logan Wall drumming.
I found myself at Central on Movember 2nd to check out a live performance of a few of these songs. It was billed as “AndrewLIVE and the Total Mess.” (They were preceded by Kristian Montano, a talented blues-folk singer. I have to also mention that he had particularly funny anecdotes between songs.)
So the “Total Mess” portion of the name was apparently because they’d only had a chance to do three rehearsals with this particular set-up (on the album, Bal provides a lot more than just a bass, keyboard, and drums). Before the show, he joked that they should change the name just before they play, to “AndrewLIVE and the What the Fuck Are We Doing?” (personally, I like it). Once they started playing, I realized that Bal had just been playing coy the whole time. The sound’s so tight you’d think that the rhythm section were shining (shinning?) with each other.
|AndrewLIVE & Brian Davis on bass.
Around the same time that I noticed I was swaying, I took a look around. Yep, not just me. Almost as soon as they started playing, the groove was set and the whole room was moving. Girls miraculously appeared at the foot of the stage, staring with wide eyes at AndrewLIVE as he sang light and smooth over their heads. Watching the bass player go at it made me jealous that I haven’t picked up a bass in a while, which happens to me when I see someone having as much fun as he was.
That’s a running theme. On the album, or live (LIVE?), you can tell that everyone involved in LIVE from the 32nd Floor had a lot of fun making it. The passion that went into this music is tangible in every beat and note and intake of breath.
If you’re interested in checking out Floss Daily Productions, here’s a link to their Facebook page. You can stream LIVE from the 32nd Floor in its entirety on SoundCloud here, and it’s also available for download from iTunes here.
Oh? What’s that?
The second hip hop album on my phone?
It’s Extinction Level Eventby Busta Rhymes. Because who has more fun than that guy?