This month's playlist offers a mini-exploration into the breakdown of genres that seems to have reached a new level of maturity in today's music, especially in the blending of rock and rap that has been lubricated by the ubiquity of electronic music and tools. This also involves an evolutionary step in the synthesis of digital & analogue sounds into a new sonic language, making me wonder if that synthesis will be recognized as a signature of this era twenty years from now.
Deradoorian - Beautiful Woman - Magical, spooky song off the forthcoming debut album from former Dirty Projectors siren (and bassist!) Angel Deradoorian.
J Fernandez - Red Flowers - Stumbled on this local boudoir auteur this month, and love this album the most. Paired with the more flamboyant BR pop of fellow Chicagoan Jimmy Whispers, one catches whiffs of a local mini-aesthetic.
Algiers - But She Was Not Flying - Caught this amazing band at Schuba's on a rainy Monday night. The small group gathered to see the band was eclipsed by the crowd in the bar hollering at the Blackhawks as they won the Stanley Cup. No matter, Algiers put on a searing performance, climaxing with singer Franklin James Fisher wailing into his mic on the floor of the venue surrounded by the crowd. There's been some significant press on this group, especially from NPR, and it typically includes a juxtaposition of post-punk and gospel. While it would be disingenuous to say those things aren't present, seeing them live gave me the feeling that they are just two of many, many influences swirling in the music. Most frequently, I felt like their mission was really finding new ways to screw with '80's synth-pop. Either way, great stuff.
Shamir - Demon - Another devilishly fun cut from Shamir.
A$AP Rocky - Holy Ghost - This album has been my running standby this month. Although I don't think Rocky is an exceptional rapper in the big picture (and am still hung up on the similarity of his name to Aesop Rock - come on!), there's something interesting about the way that this rap album so often doesn't sound like rap music. On this track, in particular, the only thing that makes it a rap song is the rapping. Take Rocky off and add a singer and there would be nothing rap about.
Young Fathers - Old Rock n Roll - Talk about genre-bending. Young Fathers seem at the forefront of breaking down distinctions between genres. This song... Well, I don't even know what genres they're breaking down. The whole thing, from music to lyric, seems designed to lure and repel with maximum "fuck you" attitude. Tom Waits meets Kool Keith? I don't know. And I have to say, although I can't pin down what they're getting at, I love the provocation of "some white men are black men too."
Ono - Spare - The oddity continues. Ono opened for Algiers on that bullshit rainy Monday, and are one of the most delightfully bizarre bands I've ever seen. The people in the band itself are so different from each other in appearance (age, color, style) it looks like someone's joke on a Benetton ad. The leader, Travis, is an older black man who was variously adorned in an all white robe and workout shorts, affecting a kind of punk-rock Shirley Temple mien. Yeah. And even weirder than that. Turns out they're a Chicago outfit that's been around for a long time, and (judging by the wide-eyed attention of the Algiers guys in the audience) can probably lay claim to at least some minor influence on the current crop of genre iconoclasts.
In the CHIRP radio interview with the band below, Travis talks about his distaste for the "musical" and how the cacophony of his South Side Chicago neighborhood informs the Ono sound.
Daughn Gibson - It Wants Everything - Loving this Daughn Gibson album and really wishing he was on tour. What happened Gibson?
SLV - HeartBreaker - A new track from my friend Sean Dixon's group with his lady.
Ornette Coleman - Poise - Spent some time with Ornette this month after his passing, and kind of wish I hadn't given up so easily when I checked him out back in college. Although this apparently sounded like pure noise to people when it came out, it's downright melodious compared to the ear-punishing one can encounter nowadays. I'm not typically sanguine about the whole "free" thing, but this really finds a sweet spot. The incredible groove mined by Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell doesn't hurt.
Heine Quartet - String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 51, No. 2: I. Allegro non troppo - Listening to WFMT (Chicago's classical music station) one evening, the program played a recording of a quartet of teenagers playing this piece. Seriously impressive. Listening to more Brahms this month, I got the impression he can be a little out there sometimes.
Clark - Tooth Moves - Clark is one of my main "work music" go-tos. Love the range of textures and volumes achieved here, and the rare feeling of improvisation in electronic music.
Mary Poppins - Chim Chim Cher-ee - I couldn't tell you why or from where, but this got lodged in my brain for several days in a row. Sorry...
Olu Dara - Rain Shower & Creedence Clearwater Revival - Have You Ever Seen the Rain - So so so much rain this month. Like, almost cruel.