Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s featured selection, chosen by Afternoon Show host Kevin Cole, is “Hold The Line” by Major Lazer from the 2009 album Guns Don’t Kill People... Lazers Do on Downtown Records.
So apparently Major Lazer is a fictional cartoon character created for the sake of this collaboration by two gentlemen named Dave Taylor and Thomas Wesley Pentz, a.k.a. Diplo and Switch. As you may already know, these two are about as hot potato as they come in the underground DJ/Producer world, having each had more than a hand in the production and success of MIA’s undeniably wonderful (albeit slightly blown-out) Grammy nominated “Paper Planes.”
A quick survey of his press release tells us Major Lazer (the GI Joe soldier dude from the cover with laser guns as hands) resides in Jamaica -- and while Diplo and Switch are from Florida and the UK, this demarcation will do as much to enlighten you to the album’s sound as anything. Actually recorded at Tuff Gong studios in Jamaica, the songs contained in the duo’s first official collaboration are steeped in dancehall, reggae and hip-hop. Major Lazer (the DJ’s -- I’m done with writing about the cartoon) do their part on this, their first official collaboration, Guns Don’t Kill People... Lazers Do, to propel the digital dancehall hip-hop cross-over revolution further into the stratosphere. The opening track, “Hold the Line,” features Santigold, the other high profile, genre-melding musician most associated with Diplo and Switch (I keep wanting to call them Lilo and Stitch; sorry it’s just that the whole cartoon character thing got me imagining those adorable Disney munchkins with dreadlocks and laser-limbs -- come on, I can’t be the first!). Opening the album with this track, a mash-up RAGGA duet of sorts with Jamaican sensation Mr. Lexx (side note/random transgression: Lexx’s MySpace top ten friends really made me laugh) is an intelligent act of production strategy. The song is a jumping off point for the duo bringing together the strengths of their past, combining Santigold’s dancey accesiblity with a thumping, machine-gun bassline assault that calls to mind the dark tone of “Paper Planes.” Despite the similarities to earlier material Hold the Line is careful to not repeat itself under the weight of preceding successes. Diplo and Switch (Lilo and…nevermind) are musical soldiers with a stockpile of weaponry at their disposal... and a willingness to use it: dub, hip-hop, dance, electronica, soul, it’s all there.
As with yesterday‘s Song of the Day artist, Major Lazer very recently played Seattle, so if you missed the spectacle, you may have to wait awhile -- that is, unless you plan to head to the official Lollapalooza afterparty, where you’ll find them on August 7. You can keep up with them on their MySpace page, and if Hot Topic-shopping zombies are your thing, check out this video for “Zumbie,” featuring Andy Milonakis (otherwise, you might want to avoid it altogether):