Right, so I like to think I have a diverse, “refined” taste in music, encompassing many genres and bands.
But I also like to play mind-numbing video games like Grand Theft Auto. Believe it or not (but do please believe it, because it’s true), video games are actually great resources for new music. For example, I discovered mewithoutYou because “Disaster Tourism” was a featured track on Amped 3 for Xbox 360. Probably the most bizarre way to happen upon that band, but they mean a lot to me now, so I’m thankful.
Similarly, I discovered Fela Kuti, an inspirational and important musician, via Grand Theft Auto IV. “Zombie” was a track used on the in-car radios. Transportation around the huge virtual city is primarily by automobile, so a lot of time is spent listening to the satirical, fictional “stations” that Rockstar Games creates.
“Zombie” spans 12 minutes long, which is normal for the Afrobeat genre. But prior to IV’s release, I hadn’t heard of either the genre or the artist. It’s a winding, twisting track that develops from the roots of simple wood instruments and bass and builds into a spellbinding medley made up by almost 20 band members. Wild, and may leave you to do some soul searching.
I have a ton of respect for developers because of their time-heavy dedication to the meticulous details. Every entry in the GTA series since III was released has had an exceptional music list, and the way they’re integrated into the stations with their own hosts is reason enough to play the games. When you’ve got Andy Dick hosting on a fake radio station in a video game… it gets pretty meta, but super entertaining.
Much in the same way I stumbled upon Fela’s “Zombie,” I reached newfound respect for Herbie Hancock, a jazz artist I’ve known about for some time. “Watermelon Man” (from today’s album, Head Hunters) was also featured on IV, and “Rockit” was on the Vice City entry in the series.
Head Hunters is considered a full-length release even at just four tracks, because it stands 40-plus minutes long.
I enjoy listening to jazz not only because it makes me feel better about myself (my robe has the same effect, mind you), but also because it’s a genre in which its artists can’t get by with tired gimmicks. Jazz musicians are serious business, man. It takes years of tireless resilience to get to the point of musical prowess – which, ironically, is part of why I can’t play anything very well. Why I write about music, and not the music itself. Like a sports writer, because fat.
Herbie happens to be one of my favorites because he falls under the category of “jazz fusion” – which is to say, a genre-bender. It’s not strictly what you may think of when you hear the word jazz. There are moments of up-tempo crescendos, and some serious horn action.
Listening to this type of music also helps me appreciate when I can hear its influence in other genres. The best example of this is The Mars Volta, a band heavily influenced by jazz. Listen to Volta’s first two albums: the horns and Ikey Owen’s keys are pupils of the school of Herbie Hancock.
It’s also a nice respite from all that screamy stuff.
I’m off to watch Underoath play their last show now, bye.
Standout tracks: All 4 tracks. It’s not a lazy interpretation, either.
Weakest track: N/A
RIYL: Jazz, jazz fusion, Grand Theft Auto. Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis.