September 2016 ~ Antler Juice

Simple Minds - Theme For Great Cities I stumbled across this compilation of "Sunset Sounds from the EMI Music Archives" and fell quickly in love with its '70's and early-'80's magic. The only other Simple Minds song I've ever heard is "Don't You (Forget About Me)", so I was surprised to see their name attached to this great instrumental rock workout. The production (especially that great bass growl) reminds me a lot of the early U2 that has a special place in my heart. 

Big Thief - Masterpiece Courtesy of the All Songs Considered guys, who had Big Thief in for a Tiny Desk Concert. Fantastic double guitar work and soulful vocal harmonies. 

Sylvan Esso - Radio A new one from this tricky duo. Foreshadowing a new record? Hopefully. 

Alsarah & the Nubatones - Ya Watan Alsarah's debut album Silt knocks me out every time I hear it, so I was really excited that she and her troupe would be coming as part of the Chicago World Music Festival, the city's most underrated public program. Although it was still a moving experience, the Festival didn't do the band any favors by booking them at the University of Chicago's Logan Center. True, it was ridiculously convenient for a Hyde Parker like me, but the setup of the place is appropriate for quietly contemplating a string quartet, not an upbeat band like this. In the end there was a respectable group of U of C kids shaking rumps in the middle aisle, but I still look forward to seeing them in a crowd of sweaty dancers. This song is another advance from their second album, due out in October. 

Luke Temple - More Than Muscle A discovery from some Spotify meandering, I hadn't heard of Temple before, and only heard of his band Here We Go Magic. This song reminds me a lot of Israeli singer Asaf Avidan. Tonally adventurous, there's a lot of range in Temple's stuff, from this kind of retro amble to electronic put-ons, to the stripped-down folk songs of his new album due out in November (there's advance song here). This song has a great flow, with the chorus rising and twisting just the right amount. All the little curlicues along the edges are great, too. 

Margaret Glaspy - Memory Street Some friends and I were lucky enough to see Margaret Glaspy play this month at the Green Mill. It seemed like a bizarre choice of venue, from the moment the show was announced to when we were sitting in the place waiting for her to go on. Typically a jazz club, the historic Green Mill is more appropriate for sipping cocktails and ignoring the music on the other end of the long skinny room. Why was she playing there? Who knows. Jesus, whoever booked that show is either a genius or really really lucky, because it turned out to be a tremendous show. 

On first listen, Glaspy's voice on record is often hushed, even small. There's something about it, though, that stands out from the legions of her peers who occupy that space. There's an edge to it, an intimation that there's danger in it, like a cute, cuddly baby tiger just on the edge of being too old to pet. Live, it's clear that tiger is full-grown, and fully aware of her strength. Standing a few feet from her during moments when she unleashed her full vocal power was startling, moving, emotional. Warm and sandy one moment, then suddenly filling the room to bursting, that voice was nothing like an indy rock siren striving for divahood, and everything like watching Adele slum it in a humble rock trio. I could very well be wrong, but I had the distinct impression that, if she wanted to, Glaspy could hang with the gutsiest belters around, but chooses not to - which makes her even more magnetic. Like just a small handful of concerts in my life, I left the Green Mill that night feeling sure that I'd witnessed the earliest days of a major artist, one likely not to play such a small venue the next time around, or ever again. 

Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam - When The Truth Is... Another nugget of echoey romanticism, from the Walkmen frontman and former Vampire Weekend axman. That latter group's sound is all over this, from the drum sound to the background vocals. 

Kevin Morby - I Have Been to the Mountain I wandered over and caught a little bit of Morby's set this summer at Pitchfork and was left a little underwhelmed. I think some performers just don't benefit from the festival setting, especially for a listener like me who has been bouncing between brash hip-hop performances. This song is a nice surprise though, calling up Dylan in all the best ways. I just can't get enough of that bass guitar sound...

Akalé Wubé - Anbessa Speaking of bass guitar sounds. This is a contemporary French group that specializes in retro Ethiopian sounds. With legendary Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango. Great stuff. 

Swet Shop Boys - T5 Continuing my Heems obsession from last month, this is a collaboration between him and British actor/rapper Riz Ahmed (aka Riz MC), who recently starred in HBO's The Night Of. Their stuff continues and builds on Heems' exploration of the experience of being a South Asian in the U.S., but with the added intercultural dimension of the UK perspective from Riz MC. One of the funnest things about their music is the way it calls on South Asian music as a source for production, making for a lot of unexpected hip-hop sounds.  

Kool Keith & MF Doom - Super Hero As with all Kool Keith songs, if you pay attention to the lyrics there's a moment where you think "What? What the hell does that even mean?" Antler juice. You tell me. From his new album, and featuring one of my favorite all-time rappers MF Doom, who's no slouch in the "What the hell?" department. 

Arvo Pärt - Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten The Harris Theater this month co-hosted and curated a night of dance featuring former MacArthur fellows in dance, as part of the 35th anniversary of the fellowship program. The first dance of the night was Susan Marshall's "Kiss," which features a couple suspended from ropes, half on the ground and half in the air. Typically for me, the piece struck a nerve largely because of the music, Pärt's cascading dollop of bitter-sweet romanticism. 

Jody Stecher - The Hills of Isle Au Haut In what I suspect is a kind of opening act for his new album (coming in October!), Hiss Golden Messenger's MC Taylor created a playlist on Spotify that serves as a kind of musical thesis paper, populated with deep folk cuts (both American and British), familiar Americana, jazz, rock, reggae, and more. At just over 3 hours long, there's plenty there to dig into. I was very pleasantly surprised to hear this song, which I grew up hearing my parents play. For years I thought it was about the "hills of Idaho," then got old enough to think that sounded a little weird, then finally one day my mom explained to me it's about Isle Au Haut, off the coast of Maine. Makes so much more sense! A lovely, definitive version (sorry Gordon Bok). 

LIV - Wings of Love A lite little fluff of Fleetwood Mac-ish pop from the new Swedish supergroup starring Lykke Li, Björn Yttling (Peter, Björn and John), and others.