Editor’s Picks

For a few weeks straight, I listened to nothing but the Illinois Street Lounge radio station on iTunes. Imagine hours upon hours of jungle-themed jazz and lounge music bombarding the brain. The assault left me hungering for more new sounds, but the station had a limited collection and couldn’t deliver. So when I turned to

www.last.fm in search of a richer listening experience, I had a mission to familiarize myself with a wide variety of music I had never heard of.

A note about last.fm: The charm of this social and musical database is the promiscuity that comes with the sampling of individual songs – by your favorite artists, by artists similar to your favorites, by artists loved by your friends, their friends, their friends’ friends and by complete strangers. And because so many people are tuned in, there’s never a shortage of music to listen to.

I browsed through many Russian artists and stumbled upon the Leningrad band Markscheider Kunst. Their song “The Da” is a fabulous Latin number, authentic with big-band features like glaring trumpets and cowbell. The vocals are pretty bland, but I imagine the cold, bleak weather of Leningrad is responsible for this feature.

Another cool Russian musician I discovered was ?????? ?????? (a non-Cyrillic search for his name on the website will not produce his original artist profile). His is the kind of music I’d imagine hearing in alleys sung by groups of intoxicated men late at night. Listen to “Super Good.” It’s a perfect example of the artist’s infectious music and terribly filthy lyrics. (Testimonial experience shows you don’t have to know the language to love his stuff).

Let’s explore the former Eastern bloc further; the song “Csuujogat¢” by the Hungarian group Besh o droM is probably the most misleading but most fun song ever. It begins with a cool, jazzy trumpet. Then BAM! Hip-hop follows, then scratching, all mixed up with folk music and guitars in overdrive.

One of the most groove-friendly songs I’ve discovered so far has been “1976” by former hip-hop producer RJD2. The pervasiveness of funky trombone and trumpets makes me wonder if this song isn’t just a sampling of tunes from 1970s sitcoms about cops. Even so, you can’t deny that some of those cops epitomized “cool.”

Finally one of the most meaningful songs I’ve found is “Don’t Feel Right” by the hip-hop group, The Roots, off their 2006 album Game Theory. The female vocalist absolutely sucked me in; I spend hours singing along. Not feeling right never felt this good. I have two of the Roots’ older albums, but it was this song which made me appreciate their music.

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