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What Are You Listening To?
Three New Yorkers take off their headphones and chat.
By Austin Duerst
What were you listening to when I came up to you just now?
I was actually listening to NPR's iPhone apps — the audio portions of their articles. But walking up here, I was listening to my traditional-ska Pandora station.
Who are your go-to ska bands?
I would say Alton Ellis, and early Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Listen: Bob Marley - "Mr. Brown"
Do your tastes lean more towards reggae-sounding ska, or do you also like ska that has a punk feeling to it?
You know, I was in a traditional-ska band in South Florida in the '90s, and we always tried to get that real Jamaican essence. We tried to preserve ska as a Caribbean version of American soul music. I mean, it's impossible not to be influenced by bands like Operation Ivy and other punk/ska mixtures. For the most part, we leaned towards stuff like The Skatalites and The Slackers. The Skatalites are the quintessential '60s ska band, but The Slackers also tried to keep it as jazzy and traditional as they could.
What did you do in the band?
I was the trombone player.
What is an album that came out this year that you were particularly excited about?
Giving it a first listen to, Bon Iver's new self-titled album is pretty incredible. And I would say Plastic Beach by The Gorillaz has to be one of the best albums put out in recent memory. That's a pretty consistent opinion among the people I talk to.
What's your favorite song on that album?
I think one of the best songs of the decade has to be "Empire Ants" with Little Dragon. It's just incredible. It's such a catchy song.
Listen: Gorillaz - "Empire Ants"
I love "Superfast Jellyfish," but people tell me it sounds like something that would have been on SpongeBob SquarePants.
Totally, but when you get past that initial part, it really is an awesome song.
Do you have any guilty-pleasure artists?
I don't even know if it's guilty, but I absolutely love Coldplay. I just think they're a really good band. I just think they're incredibly talented musicians, who took all this stuff from Brit-pop — and you could even say Radiohead — and made it much more accessible. That's my guilty pleasure.
Who's an artist you'd consider being a roadie for?
I'd honestly say Gorillaz. I'm obsessed with them. Anything that Damon Albarn touches I think is brilliant. They are the one act that I can say I've actively pursued to find their b-sides and unreleased stuff.
Have you really liked everything he's put out? What did you think of The Good, The Bad and The Queen?
I thought it was a little spacey and soft. Maybe "soft" isn't the right word. But it didn't have the bite he usually has in Blur songs or Gorillaz songs. It kind of seemed like it was a weird derivation of Blur's album 13. But I definitely like where he's going now.
Listen: Blur - "Tender"
Taking all of Albarn's material into consideration, everything from Blur to where he's at now, what would you consider the pinnacle of his work?
Blur's 13. That's such an incredible album, and it expresses all this depression and angst, but does it through brilliant songs.