features 2016

Sample Platter: Drake's "Hotline Bling"

It's time for another installment of Sample Platter, where Jim and Greg take a look at a contemporary chart topper that prominently features a unique sample. This week, they analyze Drake's "Hotline Bling," a song first released in July of 2015 and hasn't left the charts since. The main sample in the track is Timmy Thomas's 1972 hit "Why Can't We Live Together," a song that relies on minimal instrumentation and vocals, driven primarily by a rhythmic organ beat. Jim and Greg discuss how Drake used the Timmy Thomas song to create a new piece of music with a completely different message and vibe.

Go to episode 567

Sample Platter: Beyoncé's "Freedom"

This week we debut a new segment called Sample Platter, where Jim and Greg highlight a fascinating use of sampling in a pop song. They kick things off with "Freedom" from Beyoncé's album Lemonade, one of the most compelling records of the year so far. The centerpiece of the song is an organ sample from "Let Me Try," an obscure 1969 recording by the Latin American psychedelic band Kaleidoscope. The band formed in Puerto Rico, signed to a Mexican label, and recorded its only album in the Dominican Republic, which sold only a few hundred copies. Beyoncé resurrected it, transforming its trippy vibe into a stomping, raging march. While Kaleidoscope's hippie-ish song came in the wake of the riots of 1968, Beyoncé brilliantly recontextualizes it as a modern protest anthem in the era of Black Lives Matter, featuring a notable guest appearance from Kendrick Lamar.

Go to episode 563

The Return of the Cassette

On this mixtape-centric episode of Sound Opinions, Jim and Greg confess they haven't recently listened to an actual cassette tape. And in this age of instantly downloadable music, the real question is: has anyone?

As it turns out, yes. Much like vinyl, cassette tapes are peeking out from obsolescence to make a significant reappearance.

The National Audio Company – the biggest of the few audio cassette producers that still exist – reported upward of 10 million cassettes sold in 2014 and a 20% increase in profit. In recent years, big-name bands like Dinosaur Jr. and MGMT have put out cassette tapes to a widely positive response. In fact, the best-selling release of Record Store Day this year was not a vinyl record at all but a cassette—Metallica's No Life Til Leather, selling close to 3,000 copies. Despite the convenience of mp3 files, cassette-tape listeners value the sound and sentiment of this old-fashioned music medium. Jim and Greg talk to Steve Stepp, the owner of the National Audio Company, about this surprising comeback.

Go to episode 527