Like reggaeton? Like horns, congas, and traditional Latin-Caribbean sounding music? Like dancing and oddly catchy songs? Today’s song is “Tradicional a lo Bravo,” a huge choon from that Puerto Rican superstar Tego Calderón. Depending on where you are (in the Northern Hemisphere), spring is either finally here, or winter is in its final assault and you can’t wait for it to start getting nice. In the first case, celebrate with this jam, and in the second, escape to warmer climes, to a land of palm trees, rum, beaches, old forts, and dance halls.
Long time, chaps. Hereby I introduce a new feature to We Ball Harder, the Song of the Day, the Quotidian Choon, or whatever else you’d like to call it. Each day I’ll post a link to a song on Youtube or elsewhere (or otherwise upload an MP3) that I’ve been really feeling. It could be old, brand new, or anything in between. Rock, reggae, electro, Persian classical, rap, whatever. But I guarantee it will be a massive track – so enjoy!
Today we have “Grounation” from Count Ossie & the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari – a half hour masterpiece of Nyabinghi drumming and chanting in an Afro-Caribbean gospel style from the man who brought the genre to the attention of the world and had a huge role in the evolution and explosion of Jamaican music, starting with “Oh Carolina,” a collaboration with Prince Buster and the Folkes Brothers that had a big part in kickstarting ska. Anyway here’s the track. Groove out:
See you tomorrow!
The text in the caption speaks for itself. God. Damn. If an ordinary Veyron wasn’t enough…
Best wishes for the new year to my dear readers! I’ve been AWOL, but expect more in January. Here’s a shot of where I’ve been.
*give or take a few weeks…
October 1962. The Beatles, then a relatively unknown band from Liverpool, have just released their first major label single, “Love Me Do,” recorded at Abbey Road Studios, and later make their first TV appearance. History would never be the same.
But wait, isn’t this We Ball Harder, the home of the cutting-edge, underground, and hip? Yes it fucking well is. It’s not all Light Cycles, Madeon, and desert rock round here – anything hard-balling is saluted, and musically and culturally, nobody had a bigger, harder-balling, longer-lasting impact than the Beatles.
Hello East Coasties,
Enjoying the weather? Still got power? (Or are you reading this on your phone, you lovely devotees?) So as you may have noticed, the mid-Atlantic and beyond is in the midst of a so-called “Frankenstorm,” a combination of Hurricane Sandy and some mad nor’easter, resulting in apocalyptic rain, winds, damage, and general mayhem, and it’s only getting worse as I write this.
Chill out! It’s the We Ball Harder Hurricane Guide!
New York’s a city with no shortage of mixology bars, cocktail bars, or so-called speakeasies (shudder). I previously said that Little Branch is the best bar I’ve ever been to, but Pouring Ribbons, a new joint in Alphabet City not even open yet for two weeks, has stepped up to offer worthy competition. While sipping a brilliantly mixed original drink, my friendly bartender mentioned it was only their eighth night open. It’s clear that they’re off to a running start.
Those in New York: run, do not walk, to Mission Chinese Food at 154 Orchard St in the Lower East Side. It’s been documented at length by all and sundry and been touted as the greatest thing to happen to Chinese food since wok first met fire, and that may just be true.
So what’s the deal? It’s the New York outpost of a San Francisco pop-up style joint, the child of chef Danny Bowien, who before Mission had never cooked Chinese food (indeed, none of the cooks in the place were Chinese), but went travelling in China, learning how shit’s done right, and then came back and fused that knowledge and experience into some crazy-good, mind-bending, mouthwatering dishes. The New York branch has been open a few months now and apparently offers a refined tweaking of the original SF experience.
Some of what’s on offer seems traditional, some not, but everything comes out like it’s been imbued with magic tasty awesomeness that takes you on a rollercoaster ride of flavor, heat, and spice.
I’ll only comment upon what my friend and I shared. We ordered the salt cod fried rice, the Chongqing chicken wings (“explosive chili and crispy beef tripe”), the thrice-cooked pork, and the mapo tofu, all things that can be had, more or less, at any worthwhile Sichuanese place.
The rice was subtle but very very tasty. The bits of salt cod and slow-cooked mackerel provided a nice balance to the sweet Chinese sausage, and the entire dish was a good foil to the spicy onslaught which followed.
The wings – holy shit. Smothered in a seasoning powder containing lots of Sichuan peppercorn for sure, as well as what tasted like some sugar and MSG. Umami-mouth tingling explosion. My lips felt like they were fizzing like a glass of warm soda (The seasoning is so fizzing good that I scooped what was left on the plate and ate it straight). Also, the crispy fried dry chiles they come with are AWESOME, like chips but way way better.
The bacon – Holy shit part two. Never have I tasted anything more porky and smoky than the thick cut bacon they use. The sauce was divine, thick, spicy, smoky, and tingly, and the included sliced rice cakes did a good job absorbing it. My friend and I were rationing it out to have bites throughout the meal.
Mapo tofu – wow, just over the top. If I had this plus a bowl of plain rice, and nothing else, I’d be very happy. With everything else, it was probably overkill. Far more meaty and rich than any mapo I’ve had (of course, due to the generous use of pork shoulder that they advertised) – this wasn’t the incendiary, numbing dish I expected, but almost like a super heavy Chinese variant on chili. Really ridiculous (no picture of this one, I was too defeated at that point to take pictures)
I’ll conclude with the atmosphere – wild. The entrance is in a basement, only easily detected by the queue outside. The shopfront looks like the scummiest of shitty takeout windows, only with lots of people milling about and…a keg, providing free beer to people with their names down for a table. Once your name is called (making you feel like a golden-ticket holder) you’re escorted through a narrow corridor, past the glassed-in kitchen, past shelves of ingredients, plates, etc, into what looks like an indoor courtyard or back garden. Lit up by a huge red dragon, the tables are tight in, it’s raucous, and it’s casual. The restaurant equivalent of a punk concert, or a proper dive bar with table service
Every single thing about Mission Chinese Food is over the top in the best possible way. Go there ASAP.
“Scotchy scotch scotch”, so quoth the anchorman. So serveth Whisky Café in the Mile End of Montreal. Over 150 single malts – staggering. Also quite a lot of other aged brown booze (cognac, rum, port, etc), as well as a separate cigar room with numerous classics from Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, and others (Havana of course). They offer tasting flights of whiskies, arranged by distiller or region, as well as whisky and cigar pairings.
The main bar is reminiscent of a classic, elegant French café, the cigar room more a clubby, plush den. Both very nice (though definitely stay in the main area if you don’t smoke, as the air in the latter area is quite thick).
All in all a very distinctive place, the only such of its kind in Montréal, it seems, and truly a world class whisky selection. As it happens, it won the Canadian Whisky Bar of the Year award in 2008Try the Lagavullin 16, it’s peated perfection. Here’s just the single malt menu:
Sir Winston Churchill, in all his whisky-guzzling, cigar chugging Hard Ballerness, would approve.
Bonus: across the street is the Royal Phoenix Bar, which is to be entered at your discretion, but by all means stand on the street corner and watch the parade of alternative young Montreal life stream forth from it – black, white, straight, gay, girls, guys, and almost everybody dressed and decorated off the wall and mashed up. Pure entertainment!
5800 Boulevard St. Laurent
I actually bought a CD today, a physical compact disc. What could prompt such ludditery? Well, the dark Danish duo have done it again and released another quality album (their sixth, or in my count, seventh) shortly on the heels of the last one. Observator, released today, showcases the mature Raveonettes in a more emotional, stripped down mood. Recorded in a week in LA, after an apparent down period in Venice Beach for Sune Rose Wagner, the album and its title translate his many reflections into music. In his own words:
“This album rose from such a dark place but ended up illuminating the gloominess and restlessness in a way I never thought possible. I honestly never thought this album would see the light of day, all the turmoil, all the craziness, all the sleepless night but in a single burst of spontaneous madness it came to be. I’m so thrilled for people to hear this new album in its entirety, it’s quite a dark ride.” (quote from NME interview)
That said, when have any of the last several Raveonettes albums not had a dark side? Well, quite.
Musically, Observator has a back-to-basics sound, with the same lush melodies and some noise, as always. It opens with pure, melancholic vocal harmony, and ends with a wall of sound. Familiar territory? Sort of, but it’s by far the cleanest, purest, warmest Raveonettes album, with fairly unaltered guitars, simple beats, and some monstrously heavy piano, especially on “Observations,” the first and best single from the album.
Some of the other songs sound like distilled versions of classics from their last three albums, and they work very well (“Sinking with the Sun”, “She Owns the Streets”, and “You Hit Me (I’m Down)”.)
Others have a more original sound that makes for an interesting deviation. We end with “Till the End,” possibly the best wall of sound, harmonic noise-epic the Raveonettes have ever done – a song that could sum up their entire career. Tight melodies, punchy beats, chimey guitars, and waves of noise. It’s the Raveonettes at their best, and for me the best track on the album.
It’s hard to believe that Sune and Sharin could put out yet another quality album just a year after releasing the achingly beautiful Raven in the Grave, but then they’ve never gone more than two years without an album. I don’t know how they do it, but they so deserve the Great Ballers status I accorded them with earlier. Observator keeps the ball rolling.
Bonus part 2: The Raveonettes are coming to DC on October 6, playing the Black Cat as they always do. If you live in the area, go!
The post I just made about Iraqi tea was a necessary precedent for something I’m very excited to share with you. There is now an IRAQI TEAHOUSE (Chaikhana) IN THE DC AREA. Abu Nawas Tea Gourmet, in Fairfax. OK, so it’s in Fairfax, but everything good and ethnic in DC is in the suburbs for the most part (case in point, it’s in the same shopping center as Bon Chon, home of the best fried chicken in the universe, no arguments allowed).
Read on to see why it’s so special:
Quick quiz, loyal readers (why by now ought to ball quite hard indeed): what was the first proper We Ball Harder post?
It was Tea: an Introduction. Now, nearly a year later, it’s time to get specific, to talk about the most badass, caffeine-straight-to-the-veins, hard-wired psycho-strength tea out there: Iraqi style tea, chai, as found on the streets of Baghdad and in Iraqi restaurants, cafes, and households worldwide.
One of the greatest currently active bands, Muse, those West Country wizards, have released a new single from their forthcoming album, 2nd Law, due October 2. It’s called “Madness” and it’s an entirely new sound for the band…almost like a 21st century minimal electro classic George Michael vibe, in a very good way. Sparse beats and an even sparser guitar solo for lead singer/guitarist/pianist Matt Bellamy, with some cool atmospheric synths and electronic melodies thrown in. Give it a listen:
Ska, which had completely dominated Jamaican music from the early 60s, couldn’t last forever. By mid-1966, a new sound was emerging, one that permanently changed Jamaican music forever: rocksteady, which lasted a mere month and a half or so before morphing into the earliest form of reggae, the name that has persisted till the present. These two forms together only lasted about six years, and while rocksteady is widely acclaimed as the golden age of Jamaican music, the official WBH opinion is that early reggae belongs in that era as well. In full disclosure, rocksteady and reggae up till about 1972/3 – stylistically very close to rocksteady – is arguably my favorite genre of music, leaning slightly more to the reggae side.
Following is the absolute best of the best that the island has produced, and dozens of brilliant tracks.
A proper WBH recap of the marvelous London Olympics is forthcoming, but before that, I want to address something that some may have overlooked: the FANTASTIC music of the Games, from the opening ceremony to the events straight through to the closing ceremony. Of course the opening and closing ceremonies featured the Best of British Music for the Last Fifty Years, and for the most part, did a pretty good job, with tons of classic rock from the Beatles, the Who, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and more. Hell, British electronic legends Underworld were chosen as musical directors of the OC. But the choonage wasn’t limited to the start and finish: if you listened at quiet moments in the various stadiums, arenas, and other venues, there was a pretty banging soundtrack there too. Also, the official song of the olympics was a sick choice: “Survival” by Muse, currently the most talented and biggest band in Britain, and a song officially released the day it was chosen as the official song, not even a month before the Games opened:
For other great songs featured in the Games, follow the jump
It’s official – he wanted to be a legend, and he is. Usain Bolt just won the world’s first Olympic running triple-triple (or is it double triple?), part of the mighty Team Jamaica – Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Yohan “The Beast” Blake, and Usain “Lightning” Bolt – that won the 4x100m relay today, setting a new, smashing world record of 36.84 seconds, a mere two days after Bolt became the first ever to get a double-double by winning the 200m. But this time, he had help from the rest of Team Jamaica, overall the fastest sprinters in the world. What an irie first week of Jamaica’s 50th independent year! It’s only fitting to keep the party going, so get out your Red Stripe, Ting, curry goat, and whatever else you want and have a good time!
It’s also the 50th anniversary, more or less, of Jamaica’s explosion onto the global music arena, and the two are no coincidence. What will be presented over several installments is a rough guide to the many styles that have gone on to influence musicians, rebels, and parties everywhere in the world since then – ska and the sound systems, rock steady, toasting (arguably the roots of rap) reggae in all its forms, dub, and dancehall, to be selective. You’ll get some brief history and description, but most imporantly, tons of fantastic music.
Big up for a big week in Jamaica. August 5: Fastest Man in the World Usain “I Am Actually Lightning” Bolt destroys the Olympic record in the 100m dash, setting a new one in 9.63 seconds. August 6: 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence (much Ting, Wray & Nephew overproof rum, and jerk chicken consumed, all highly recommended). August 9: Usain Bolt, in all of 19.32 seconds, becomes the first person ever to double-double in the 100m and 200m sprint – winning them both in Beijing and London, nearing peak speeds of 30mph in the process. He would be pulled over for speeding in residential neighborhoods and much of Washington, DC. Oh, he also celebrated by doing five pushups for his five golds shortly after crossing the line. BEAST! August 11: Jamaica wins the men’s 4x100m relay, with Bolt and Blake on the team, repeating the gold from Beijing, giving Bolt an unprecedented triple-triple! On the women’s side, here’s a shout out to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who on August 4 repeated her Beijing 100m gold with another one in London. And let’s not overlook Yohan Blake, another wickedly fast Jamaican sprinter, who got silver in the men’s 100 and 200, and whose personal 200 record is second only to Bolt’s in the world, and Warren Weir, who won bronze today, giving Jamaica a clean sweep of the men’s 200m.
(more on Bolt, Jamaica, and 9 fantastic songs after the jump)
High def video on NBC’s site – VERY worth it (or watch the spectactor footage below:)
WOW. Not the most high-profile of gymnastic events, but “Flying Dutchman” Epke Zonderland NAILED his high bar performance last night amid stiff competition from his fellow gymnasts. His moves were sublimely fluid and seamless, lighter than air on the twists and releases, and those three catch-and-release dealies were jaw-dropping. It also carried a difficulty of 7.9, the highest of ANY Olympic gymnast in any event. Maybe not quite as flawlessly brilliant as McKayla Maroney’s perfect vault, it was still, in the words of NBC commentators, “absolutely sick!” and it got him a ludicrously high score of 16.533 and the Netherlands’ first gymnastics gold in 84 years. Bravo Epke, and congratulations Holland!
The day has come, friends and readers: WBH and its author have avoided it for years, but we’re now on Twitter, as you can now see over on the right side over there ——————>
Follow along for links and thoughts that won’t always make it to this site, but are still worthwhile. https://twitter.com/WBHblog
Also, if you’re not following him already, Samuel L Jackson’s Twitter has focused almost solely on the Olympics since they began, with tweets re: events as NBC shows them. It’s a masterpiece, the product of a “magnificent and wonderful mind,” as a friend put it. Here are some of the choicest examples:
“PHELPS WALKS em’ DOWN!!! Came & got that ASS! OLYMPIC RULER!! Last race Maggie!! MOSTMUFFAQUATICPFUQQAH of ALL TIME! GOLD!!! Go USA!” [personal favorite]
“Like I said before, those BRITS are some PEDALIN’, RECORD BREAKIN’, MUTHACYCLINPHUCCAS!! Congrats UK!”
“There’s Really some shit called a Splashometer??!! Really?!”
“Men’s Rapid Fire Pistol is Off da Chain! The glasses, da Gats…no Recoil! Steady hands & nobody’s holdin’ their shit SIDEWAYS!”
“Soni Wrecks Breaststroke WR in 200!! A DEUCEMOUGHFOUGHKINPEAT!! Mo GOLD Mo GOLD Mo GOLD! !! Go USA!!”
“Did that Russian just do the ” whoa Gurl Whut wuz in That Drank, dat Shit wuz Skrong” Vault landing?!”
We Ball Harder has an unwritten rule to not talk about sports, or indeed anything that doesn’t potentially add value to your life. However, our slogan is “Telling You What’s Good,” and unwritten rules are certainly there to be broken, and since it’s the Olympics, here’s what’s not just good, but too good not to discuss: McKayla Maroney and her mastery of the vault.
Yes, by now everyone has seen her unfortunate fall after her second vault last night, which resulted in a silver medal in the individual vault competition. If you paid attention though, you’ll notice that her first vault was so good that despite her fall on the second she STILL led the pack until the very last gymnast, neither of whose jumps were nearly as good as McKayla’s first. Also amazing is that last night was her first serious mistake ever in a competition. And unlike some of other gymnasts in these games, she accepted her mistake and her Silver stoically and resolutely. Respect.
But let’s go back to 31 July, to the celebrated gold medal performance by the Fierce Five, as some have taken to calling the US women’s gymnastics team. Every one of the young ladies performed brilliantly, but far and away the best single performance of that event was McKayla’s vault, pictured above, which arguably cemented the US’s lead. Consisting of a notably difficult move called the Amanar, it carried a difficulty score of 6.5, many tenths of a point higher than most routines. McKayla launched herself into the air like a rocket, reaching an unprecedented height while performing 2.5 turns and a somersault, all while keeping herself dead straight as no other gymnast did. Not to mention the flawless landing. In the end she received an execution score of 9.733, the highest score given to any gymnast, for a whopping total score of 16.266 out of a maximum 16.5. Where were the errors? Nobody is sure, neither commentators nor fans after watching slow replays again and again. Even the judges appeared to be in awe. I’m convinced it was perfect. See for yourself – I challenge you to watch only once:
and super slow-motion HD:
Despite the amazing achievements of numerous athletes at the London Olympics, whether it be Missy Franklin’s staggering gold medal-filled Olympic debut, Usain Bolt smoking the competition yet again, or the sheer awesomeness of Oscar Pistorius, McKayla Maroney’s vault on July 31 stands out for its artistry, its grace, its athleticism, and its sheer perfection. She may have a silver on her own, but her stunning performance was the finest moment in the sea of fine moments that led to the Fierce Five gold. She is unequivocally the best in the world, the Hardest Vaulter and Hardest Baller in the field. Bravo!
Updated to add this bonus:
Leaving London for a moment, Today’s Financial Times has done something remarkable: actually published an accurate, pros-and-cons article that perfectly captures the frustrating yet addictive nature of Beirut. Most major papers do nothing but extol its party/beach/restaurant/chic cafe scene. Abigail Fielding-Smith’s article is all about the chaos, frustration, and anarchy of life in Beirut, but equal due paid to the entrancing small charms of living there:
“It is fashionable among Middle East aficionados to decry Beirut’s shallowness. But away from the manic hedonism of the nightspots, the pleasure Beirutis take in the small things in life is infectious. In the evenings, old ladies take fold-up chairs on to the seafront to gossip and smoke water-pipes, while young men slip in and out of the water beneath the railings. Beirut is, despite its problems, a great place to live. I hope it stays that way.”
Definitely worth a read, and something to keep in mind when you think everything around you is madness.
The lads over at Top Gear, the greatest TV show on the planet, have rather coincidentally provided a photo gallery of just the sort of cars you can see on a typical afternoon in West-Central London. You’ll remember I said something about this yesterday, and here’s visual proof of what I was talking about. Click here to see the full gallery, but here are a few of my favorites:
Oddly omitted: the sublime Maserati Granturismo, fairly common in SW3, SW1, SW7, W8, and W1
Gotta catch em all!
After reading the previous post, one of my great friends from my student days there had this to say to me about London, and it deserves to be shared:
‘London is a place where everything lives and dies. It’s a city where you’ll extend the frequency of your existence like a rubberband testing its stretchiness. You have the choice to live a big or a small life, to learn everything or nothing. To feel alone in the silence of its parks, or claustrophobic surrounded by a cocophony of cultures & scents. It’s one of the only places on this earth where a global nomad can go back to and it will always feel “same-same-but-different”.’
I may live mostly in DC, frustratedly adore Beirut, and enjoy travelling round the world, but only one place is my true love: The Metropolis; Her Majesty’s Capital; London. Having lived there twice and visited so often I’ve lost count of the times, London is truly where my spirit resides. When I arrive at Dulles, I groan; when I arrive at Heathrow, I think “I’m home.”
Given a little thing called the Olympics is going on there now, it’s a great time to tell you why London deserves every bit of attention it’s getting.