It’s rock that does it best for me. It can come in whatever stripe – indie, heavy metal, with an orchestra or without, with a synth or without, folk-infused, progressive… you name it. Rock is my first preference when I want to listen to music. I like the blues too and R&B, some hip-hop, some post-rock, electronic dance music even, and sometimes experimental avant garde but not as much as I like rock. But there are those occasions when nothing but a classic jazz album will work for me. At such times, my well-thumbed sleeve of Miles Davis’ 1970 double album, Bitches Brew is brought out, and spun and, in spite of the nasty scratch on Spanish Key (first track on Side 3), I marvel for the umpteenth time at the fabulousness of that towering jazz-rock fusion album, its tracks, of course, but also the deadly line-up that trumpet guru Davis got together for it. Read more

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Musical collaborations rarely get as unexpected as on the recently released Wise Up Ghost And Other Songs. The album is the product of British musician Elvis Costello teaming up with America’s Philadelphia-based hip-hop and R&B band, The Roots. The only thing I can find common between the two collaborators is that though both parties have, respectively, earned oodles of critical acclaim through their careers, neither has become as popular as I think they deserve to be. It’s a pity that more people don’t listen to either Costello or The Roots even though both are very, very influential musical entities.

Come together, right now: Questlove’s (right) drumming is refreshing and Costello often sings highly literate lyrics (Photo: Dan Hallman/AP)

Come together, right now: Questlove’s (right) drumming is refreshing and Costello often sings highly literate lyrics (Photo: Dan Hallman/AP)

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It all began with a short conversation we were having in the car about the Laura Marling album, Once I Was An Eagle. I said I rather liked it. And indeed I had. Marling made her debut album at 18. That was five years ago, which means she is just 23 now but on this year’s Once I Was An Eagle, she sounds so incredibly mature. My daughter’s understated response to that was what can best be described as “meh”. Marling was good, she said, but clearly she wasn’t as enthused by this new album. What then, I asked, was she listening to? The new Nine Inch Nails record, Hesitation Marks, she replied with much more enthusiasm than what she had shown for Marling.
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The last time Download Central turned up in Brunch, I wrote about Walter Trout, the top-notch blues guitarist, who besides having a stellar solo career, has played with blues greats such as John Mayall, Canned Heat and John Lee Hooker. I’d mentioned that Trout has many fans in India, including the (now-incarcerated) Sanjay Dutt, and has even played at gigs here. Then, quite abruptly, Download Central went on a break. At six months, it was a rather long break. But, as you can see, it is back with another bluesman, no less. Read more

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There’s been so much hype about Celebration Day, the name of the 2007 concert by the surviving members of Led Zeppelin, who reunited to play just one gig at London’s O2 arena as a tribute to the legendary producer and music industry executive, the late Ahmet Ertegun, that even after the recordings – both video and audio – of the concert were released late last year, I hesitated to check them out. Big mistake. I should’ve. Read more

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Like most of my friends, I heard my first Jimi Hendrix album after the legendary guitarist had died. Not surprising, because Hendrix died in 1970 and when he lived, he’d just four albums to his credit. I think the first Hendrix album that I got to listen to was Are You Experienced, which released in 1967, and had memorable songs such as Foxy Lady, Fire, Manic Depression and so on. Hendrix’s guitar, when you first heard it (and it was already the mid-1970s when I experienced Hendrix, at least five years after he died at 27) left an indelible mark. His unconventional use of the wah-wah pedal and amplifier feedback distortions were unlike anything that I’d heard before. Read more

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When I first heard of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, a band that, despite having two albums to its credit, is still quite below the radar, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d read that they were a Portland, Oregon band that had roots in New Zealand (which didn’t exactly make things any clearer); and that they were a trio fronted by Ruban Nielson who’d earlier been with a NZ band called The Mint Chicks (again, that was no clue to their music since I was as unaware of The Mint Chicks as I was of Unknown Mortal Orch.). I’d also read that The Mint Chicks were a “post-hardcore” band and that to my mind could mean anything that you wanted it to. Read more

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Bands seldom have names that describe what it is that they do. In fact, more often their names have nothing much to do with the kind of music they play. Canada’s The New Pornographers obviously don’t do what their rather risqué name suggests. Neither does Portland’s electronica band STRFKR do whatever you may think they do once you put all the missing letters back into their name. So when I came across a New York band called Endless Boogie, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d got a lead on them from a blog and when I checked them out I realised that they might be one band that lives up to its name. Read more

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As I write this, with a cup of coffee next to the keyboard, I have on my computer’s speakers Keller Williams playing 10 songs with minimal accompaniment—just a piano. It’s the perfect audio complement to a sunny morning in Feb when it’s not yet as hot as Delhi can get nor too chilly. Read more

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I got teased by Nick Cave last week. A fortnight before his new studio album with The Bad Seeds, titled Push the Sky Away, was to be released , he released a video of one of the songs, Jubilee Street. It stars the English actor, Ray Winstone, whom you may have watched in many movies playing tough, gritty roles. He’s been in tons of movies but my favourite Winstone movie is Sexy Beast from 2000 where as a retired burglar and an ex-convict, he is being menacingly coaxed by Ben Kingsley (who plays a former associate) to pull off another heist. I’ve a DVD of Sexy Beast somewhere and sometimes while looking for other films, I discover it and before long it’s running on my TV screen. Winstone is great in the movie but Kingsley as a violent sociopath is super – a far cry from his role in Gandhi! Read more

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