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Jabs: A quick note on my favorite song(s) from J Cole and Kendrick Lamar

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I've been on a hip-hop kick for a few months now, and since it doesn't seem to be abating I might as well discuss two songs from my two favorite rappers:


1. "Tale of Two Citiez": J Cole

There's been plenty of chatter about our favorite curmudgeon J Cole's identity as a rapper rooted in boredom, tedious seriousness, and "eh-ness". That's why we like him. Whether he's rapping about folding laundry, enjoying almond milk, or braggin' on his success and fame only to later chastise himself for doing so, J Cole is a relatable, reliable MC who makes his own beats, and yes, went platinum with no features. He's on a solo journey. Cruising the rap-sphere all alone, Cole often spins introspective tunes like "Tale of Two Citiez"- simple documents that chart his easily traceable, and relatable internal thoughts about growing up without much money and then having it. In typical Cole style, in the end, he asserts that what goes up must come…

Edward Hopper's Paintings: The Sights You Chose to See

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Good ol' Ed Hopper's paintings from the late 20's and early 30's capture an America we can still feel today (even after suburbanization)- one of solitary souls eating at the diner, filling up gas, or sitting on a train. Hopper's Americana could be about loneliness and isolation just as easily as it could be about those beautiful moments when you face the world alone- in the morning- late fall- 5 am at Dunkin' Donuts- with a white moon poking out of the sky. That kinda thing. It's all about the sights you chose to see.



The Cultural Regions of CT

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Litchfield Hills Fairfield/NYC Suburbs NYC Exurbs Naugatuck Valley Greater Bridgeport Greater New Haven Central CT Industrial Region Capital Region & Suburbs Lower CT River Valley Hammonasset Shore Casino's Southeastern Corner Quiet Corner & Dairy Country


Along for the Ride with Tell Tale Signs

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Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan's been slinging out the alt-takes, b-sides, throwaways, covers, live versions, and other unreleased tunes on the Bootleg Series since 1991. Of course, a bootleg ain't a bootleg if it is released officially, but I digress. If there's one thing that the series has proven, it is that often Dylan's best versions of his songs are left off the albums. . . and sometimes even the best songs are scratched, left in the backyard as Bob turns the lights out (I'm looking at you, "Blind Willie McTell").

Point is, the Bootleg series is rich with material, and Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Volume 8, is about as good as it gets. Chronicling the era between 1989's Oh Mercy and 2006's Modern Times, Tell Tale affords listeners a front road seat next to Dylan on his journey away from the burned out- leather jacket 80s to the ultimate bluesman, the songsmith so steeped in Americana that the man and the characters that populate…

Five Songs I've Been Recently Diggin'

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The trees are green, the flowers are booming, the grass is growing, and the whistles of track and field coaches are ringing throughout Connecticut. Here is a quick review of ten songs I've been listening to recently:

"Percy Faith" by Damien Jurado: As a single released before the streaming debut of his new album The Horizon Just Laughed, on "Percy Faith" Jurado channels his folk roots, 50's and 60's easy listening grooves, and rainbow-bright keys. Easy listening music icons and Arizona news anchors are referenced with ease- the song floats along- as the last verse condemns the modern world for "knowing everything but no one at all". This letter to the past couldn't more beautiful and easy. 


"My Body" David Bazan: Big Dave writes about the mind/body connection, or perhaps, disconnection. Here, Bazan evokes an ancient idea: we know what's good for us, but we don't do it anyway. We need community, but sometimes we'd rathe…

The Penguins Get It

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A quick song- well, a long song. And an instrumental one at that. Perfect for falling asleep, if you need it.

The Line Dance, The Bob Dylan Shuffle, Part 1

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For my enjoyment, recently I've been listening to and thinking about my favorite lines from Bob Dylan songs. Viewed from this lens, his songs are interesting- there always seems to be a line or two even from his lesser celebrated songs that really sticks out to me- reverberates in my head- rattles the cage a bit- or gives me something to chew on.

Today, I put  Bob Dylan on "shuffle" and participated in this "favorite line" exercise. Lucky for me, the first song that came up was "Froggie Went A-Courtin'", which is actually an ancient English folk tune that finds its roots in the 16th century. It must be a great song. It's been around for that long. Staying power. Without further ado:

"Froggy Went A-Courtin'":A little piece of cornbread laying on the shelf/ if you want any more you can sing it yourself

"Idiot Wind":She inherited a million bucks/ And when she died it came to me/ I can't help it if I'm lucky

"It …

The National: Essential Tracks

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City dwellin' east coast professionals. . . I guess we all have heart, and The National are here to document it for us under the florescent city lights of commercial Manhattan. 

Is there a science to walking though windows? Who are these guys?

For starters: The National mesh, construct, tear down, and play rock n' roll unlike anyone else. At the core of all their songs lies a detectable heart buried underneath a sea of concrete. After a typical National song has reached it's conclusion, we've read a tightly constructed essay of postmodern discontent, meticulously built with plenty of poetry and no wasted words.

Although the band is led by lead singer Matt Berninger, the National does not serve as a vehicle for any sort of overwhelming personality. As a unit, the National almost always have something to say that seems to stretch beyond just one personality, suggesting that a collective approach is favored by the band. 

Unlike much of the music I tend to listen to, the Natio…

In Praise of Powderfinger, Neil Young's Best Song

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"Powderfinger" may be Neil Young's best song. In a few short minutes, Young manages to paint an evocative picture that is cinematic in its scope- place, setting, theme, backstory- it's all there as Young tells the story (in first person) of a young man that encounters war, death, and violence admist the backdrop of a small town life, filled with family tragedy and everyday musings.

"Powderfinger" can be heard in two formats: first, there's the revved up electric version that Young cut with his band Crazy Horse. Of course, Young's got the heart-wrenching acoustic version in his back pocket as well. Both can be heard below.

Most impressive of all is Young's ability to communicate, deeply, the tragedy of an early death on a river town. While the song is filled with specifics, it manages to be general enough- and finds it place in the Vietnam War or perhaps the American Civil War in equal parts. There's really no tellin'. One thing, however…

Kendrick Joins Dylan: A Pulitzer Prize!

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Here at 95 North, we love Bob Dylan and Kendrick Lamar. While Bobby won a Nobel Prize for literature in 2017, we were all elated to discover that Kendrick Lamar's got one now, too. Recently, Lamar won the Pulitzer prize for music. Noticeably, he is the first non-jazz/non-classical musician to win the prize, according to the New Yorker. To honor the occasion, click here to read 95 North's overview of the best of Kendrick Lamar, who, along with Bob Dylan, write some of the best American music my ears have been lucky enough to take in. I've been educated, enthralled, mystified, appropriately saddened and enlivened (emotional intelligence?), and generally enriched by the music of these two human beings for a long time.




Educated: Lamar-"Institutionalized"
Enthralled: Lamar- "DNA"
Mystified: Lamar- "Duckworth"
Saddened: Lamar-"Sing About Me (I'm Dying of Thirst)
Enlivened: Lamar- "Money Trees"
Enriched: Lamar- "How Much a Dollar Co…