Lucius – Hey, Doreen I heard about this group recently on All Songs Considered, and have been addicted to the few available songs for about the last week. It's not as prominent on this song, but the two women who sing lead do some incredible harmonizing. I am, more and more, a complete sucker for great harmony singing.
I recently bought a new bass for myself, and so have been obsessing about bass playing and tone - trying to figure out how to make my cheap "Beatle bass" make the kind of percussive sound the bass has at the beginning of this song. Love it. My understanding is that this song and "Tempest" (also on Spotify) are from a forthcoming album that will come out in October. The four songs on the EP are really great, too.
Their Tiny Desk Concert (below) will give you a chance to feel the full power of their voices. Go to around 1:52 to have your ass kicked. They're playing at Lincoln Hall on October 25th. I'll be there!
Sarah Jarosz – Mansinneedof Another song I found just fishing around on Spotify. Great playing.
Quincy Jones – Go Down Dying My friend Helean (who will turn out this month's Guest List) was recently on a tear looking up where samples for well-known songs came from, investing heavy time in the website whosampled.com. Anyone who has stumbled on the original source of a sample they know really well from a different song knows how disorienting and strangely pleasing it can be. Sometimes the distance between the original and the borrower really deepen your appreciation for the talent involved in sampling. If you are familiar with this song, then you know what I'm talking about. Crazy, right?
Cam'Ron – What Means The World To You Speaking of effectively used samples... I know the whole-cloth cribbing that goes on here is firmly in the Puff Daddy realm of unimaginative sampling, but I just don't care. There's something so winning about the combination of old and new. It also seems like there's some kind of detuning that happens at certain points, which is also strange and intriguing. I wanted to like more of this album, knowing that my friend Donnie is a big Cam'ron fan, but this track was really the only standout for me. Plus, it solves Robb's objections to the original Police song, based on his observation that Sting inexplicably sounds like he's singing with a Puerto Rican accent.
Daniel Owino Misiani and Shirati Band – Joshirati Misiani Oh man, I love this stuff. Finding this album corresponded with a small revelation about how technology (and in particular a service like Spotify) is altering the meaning of cultural forces, in this case the library. I used to rely on the library heavily for new music, checking out CDs regularly from the public library and hitting the music section of my college library hard for four solid years. Without thinking about it too much, that habit tapered off into nothing long ago. A few weeks ago, though, I found myself killing some time in the music section of the Harold Washington Library downtown, and wandered into the world music CD section. Immediately I was right back in a familiar mindset, picking up CDs and making a stack to check out. Suddenly I snapped back into 2013 - "I don't need to check CDs out." I took out my phone, connected to the library's wi-fi, got on Spotify, and downloaded several of the CDs I was looking at onto my phone. The small revelation I had at this moment was that, although I wasn't interacting with the library in precisely the way it was intended, it still actually was serving its central purpose - giving me access to ideas and information I didn't have before. In this new era of overabundant access to information, the real value is found in the curators, those reliable sources of taste that can help define a shape to the galactic amoeba of information that engulfs us all. It hadn't occurred to me before that moment, but naturally (ideally? inevitably?) the library is positioned to be the perfect all-purpose curator.
The moment I started listening to this album I felt like I was home. Everything about it appeals to me, from the interlocking guitar patterns, to the harmony singing, to the intricate and bouncy bass lines. Walking around my neighborhood listening to this on my headphones, I was imagining what it would be like to live in a place where this was the standard music happening in bars or on the street. Can you imagine how much happier our city would be? If, when you went to your local bar for a quick drink, instead of a noisy cover band or top 40 radio, these guys were over in the corner playing? A guy can dream.
Eleanor Friedberger – I'll Never Be Happy Again Sometimes I find an artist that I have not so much a love/hate relationship, but more of an enjoyment/ambivalence with. Almost everything Eleanor Friedberger is involved in, including her solo stuff and the Fiery Furnaces, falls in this category. I really like the music on this album. I like thinking about it, and the thought behind it. The production and playing are great, and her songwriting strikes me as an unpretentious descendant of Dylan. At the end of the day, though, I just can't listen to her voice for more than about 4-5 songs. When I'm digging it, the flatness and affect really appeal to me. And then, suddenly, I'm totally over it and can't understand why she seems to care so little about "singing." Either way, this album is quite diverse and contains musical references from several decades of rock music. I'm glad she's out there, although I do wish her brother Matthew (the other half of Fiery Furnaces) was around to break the monotony (monotone?) every few songs.
Bobby Timmons – Dat Dere Since I started working from home (highly recommended) I've been building quite the relationship with my turntable, which provides me with a regular excuse to get out of my chair and walk a few paces around the room. Because of this, I've been realizing that there are records I've been neglecting, including this gem. Timmons was a major player in Art Blakey's 50s-era Jazz Messengers, which is easily my favorite jazz. The standout for me on this cut, though, is Sam Jones' bass playing, which is muscular and percussive. I'm sure this is an unusual opinion (especially for a bass player) but I generally think bass solos in jazz are a bad idea. I just think that the sound a bass makes is not conducive to soloing, especially since its sonic wishy-washyness usually requires almost every other instrument to stop playing, bringing the whole song to a stop for an instrument that doesn't sound that great by itself. Here, though, it works winningly, partly because the paired-down trio format means that everyone keeps playing, but even more so because Jones seems to understand that the bass is not really a melodic instrument, magnifying its percussive qualities to great effect.
Jackson And His Computer Band – Rock On Another All Songs Considered find that has instigated a temporary obsession. This music seems to me the perfect synthesis of groove and intellect, chopping and screwing with rhythm and sound but always keeping some kind of funk underlying. This song is from 2005's Smash. After an eight-year break there's a new album coming out this fall. Below is the video for the first song to be released, "Dead Living Things." I guess that's how they party in France.
Kat Edmonson – Lucky While Gabe was away recently I was camped out at her place taking advantage of her cable and ended up watching the movie Admission, which has a ton of smart, well-chosen music in it. When this song came on, though, it stuck out in all the good ways. It took me a while to figure out who it was and track it down, but it was worth it. I love how spare it is, keeping the song to its bare minimum parts. I also love the fact that she achieves with multi-tracked vocals what a more ham-fisted arranger might have tried to get done with horns or guitars or something.
Open Mike Eagle – Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes Until his appearance on WTF, I had never heard of Mike Eagle. I'm assuming I'm not alone in this. Super smart and ambitious in his own way, he is openly committed to bringing some reality to keeping it real. As Maron pointed out, not many rappers have a whole song about doing domestic chores. The production here is attractively jagged and strange. "Art rap" is what he calls it. Why not?
Bilal – All Matter Following his appearance at Pitchfork, I recently got into a conversation (mostly with myself) on FB about R. Kelly, wondering how it is that in my world he's always been essentially the poster boy for tepid R&B - mostly a joke, while to the rest of the world he's suddenly become some kind of elder statesmen of the genre. I started to wonder if, in spite of what I want to think about myself, I just don't like contemporary R&B. The whole thing has sparked a mini-quest to find music in this vein that actually sounds good. Would Bilal and R. Kelly be considered peers? I'm not sure, but clearly they are in the same musical ballpark. Except, you know, Bilal is awesome and smart and original and can sing like a GD angel. This whole album is really great, and short on the flaccid "grooves" and insipid crooning you'll get in every R. Kelly song I've ever heard.
Chris Thile – Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001: IV. Presto Did he deserve a MacArthur "genius award?" My dad has doubts, I think essentially because Thile seems to him like a betrayer of "tradition" or whatever - a young upstart. But, I mean, holy shit. Listen to this. He has single-handedly elevated the mandolin to new heights. Winning.
Moderat – This Time Part 6 in my continuing worship of anything Apparat does. This is album number 2 from Moderat, his collaboration with the guys from Modeselektor.
Chicago – 25 Or 6 To 4 A recent text message exchange with Helean, in which I am distracted and act grumpy. She goes first:
H: Ummmm is it lame to dig Chicago, the band? Because i am digging them :p
J: I feel like this is a problem that usually doesn't haunt you.
H: What, liking lame bands? Or being concerned by what other people think are lame? :p
H: I dunno =/ but "25 or 6 to 4" sounds amazing.
H: Umm by the way, do i like a lot of things that people think are lame??
J: How the hell should I know what people think?
J: Mumford and Sons is super popular, so...
H: But we don't hang out with people who think that and you know what I mean, no matter how inane this topic is! Dah. Just hearing some more Chicago, and I dunno if I dig the band per se, but that song "25 or 6 to 4" is solid fo sho.
J: Like what you like man. Never mind the Bullocks. Sandra, etc.
H: Goes without saying - I do. Little ornery today? This was supposed to be a light hearted convo about 70's rock!! :p I thought you might say something like, Yeah that song is great!
(Meanwhile, I decide to stop being condescending and take a minute to actually listen to the song)
J: Yeah, this song is good. Really good.