Archive for the ‘Americana’ Category

Jimmy Fallon has it all. A young comedian/actor/writer/producer/father from Brooklyn who landed a coveted spot on SNL, followed by a stint on Late Night, and now the ultimate dream job as host of The Tonight Show. He has the ability to reach millions of people every night, and the luxury of making his stage whatever he wants it to be. Now, he can add full fledged musician to his portfolio. Here’s a look at some of his best work.

8. Dancer

Fallon started a segment called The Evolution of Dance, during which he performs dance moves of any genre, as it changes over the years. Fallon holds his own, whether it’s hip-hop dancing with Will Smith, end zone dancing with Justin Timberlake, or even Mom dancing with the First Lady herself.

7. Singer

Fallon seems to understand music so well, even in pitch and tone, that he’s able to completely revamp songs enough to make them original, but not too much so they cannot be recognized. An all-clucking version of  The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” with the help of Blake Shelton. A barbershop quartet version of Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up.” And we can’t forget the ragtime version of R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix).” It will make you cry tears of joy.

6. Band Member

Fallon does not always need to be in the spotlight, and is just as comfortable blending in the background. When a star musician appears on his show, he lets them belt out their tunes, while he enlists superior quality classroom or office instruments to provide just the right sound. Robin Thicke took part, as did Christina Aguilera. It’s genius. It’s catchy. It’s delightful. Just like this.

5. Mashup DJ

Fallon got the idea to take clips of NBS newscaster Brian William’s broadcasts, and splice them together to make it sound like he’s rapping. From Snoop Dogg, to Marky Mark, to Sugarhill Gang. Props to the editing guy.

4. Lip Sync Superstar

The almighty lip sync contest. No celebrity contestant holds back, each bringing their A game. They add drama, choreography, pelvic thrusts, and serious stage presence to the studio. It’s literal laugh out loud hysterical. Paul Rudd annihilated the competition, but Joseph Gordon Levitt surprised us all (and Jimmy wasn’t half bad either.)

3. Rapper

The whole world has seen this duet with Justin Timberlake. In fact, there are five installments of it. They take turns singing snippets of famous rap songs, with the appropriate amount of gusto. The chemistry between the two of them  is the epitome of what every bromantic relationship should be. Priceless is an understatement.

2. Impersonator

Lots of comedians can do impressions. But not as many can mimic musicians both vocally and instrumentally. Fallon has some of the biggest stars down pat. He performed Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” as Neil Young, and got Bruce Springsteen to play along. He came up with the idea of an infomercial trying to sell a navigation system with Dave Matthews’ voice. He’s eerily accurate.

1. Fanfare

Being such a big fan of music himself, Fallon gets to interview his idols. Yet he always manages to humble them, by convincing stars like Billy Joel to sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with him a capella. He put U2 on the spot to perform an acoustic version of “Ordinary Love.” He even put together a protest song against the 2010 BP oil spill, and rallied the likes of Eddie Vedder and Florence Welch to help him sing it. As icing on the cake, he gets The Roots as his house band.

Music is ever-changing and as time goes on, everything seems to have been done. Musicians these days need to be a lot more creative and experimental in order to stand out, be original, and be the first. Here are a couple of bands that caught my attention doing just that.
                                                                                                                                                                       First on the list is Broken Bells. I first of heard of them after I casually picked up one of those free iTunes download cards from Starbucks, for their single “The High Road”. Once I heard the track, I was hooked. Broken Bells combines the vocal talent of James Mercer, aka lead singer of The Shins (think “Caring is Creepy” and “New Slang” on the oh-so-amazing Garden State soundtrack), with the musical genius of Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse), best known for his collaboration on Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”.
                                                                                                                                                                      Their self-titled album is incredible from beginning to end. Mercer’s voice is perfect throughout, and Burton definitely steps up in his role as producer: the way he mixes sounds and music with the vocals is artistry at its best. It’s upbeat and mellow at the same time (if that makes any sense). “The Ghost Inside” (by far my favourite track) is the tale of a girl stuck in a loveless relationship, a common theme throughout the album: the struggle in finding one’s way in the world, and the idea that hope is always there. I was unable to attend their show recently, (and no I don’t want to talk about it), but have heard they are unbelievable live, so check them out.
                                                                                                                                                                       Next up is Mumford and Sons. These guys are a trip. Made up of 4 guys hailing from London, UK, playing instruments ranging from guitar, keyboards, drums, and double bass, to mandolin, banjo and accordion, no joke. I would say their sound is definitely folky but with a little rock ‘n’ roll (think Great Big Sea – for all you Canadians out there – but angrier and not as lame). Vocally, I am reminded of Dave Matthews with hints of Damien Rice, and even a sprinkle of Spirit of the West (singers of the classic frosh week song, “Home for a Rest”). On their debut album, Sigh No More, Mumford and Sons provide 12 great tracks, most of which deal with love, heartbreak and loss.                                                                                                                                                                            Their first single “Little Lion Man” is instantly addictive and a great way to introduce yourself to their album. The reason I love them so much is that the way they express feelings of sorrow is exactly how I would: be sad, then get angry. “I Gave You All” starts with “I never meant you any harm/But your tears feel warm as they fall on my forearm”, all sung in a soft voice; and ends with a very loud “But you rip it from my hands/And you swear it’s all gone/And you rip out all I have/Just to say that you’ve won”.