David Bowie - Lazarus It's not like the world needed more evidence of Bowie's artistic courage and genius, but holy shit what a swan song. Not only does the album represent one more sonic reinvention in a career full of them, but its pared-down live band setting is the perfect vehicle for Bowie's open-hearted, clear-eyed reckoning with the death that he clearly knew was coming. I'm amazed by his ability to render such deeply personal musings in a mass-market ready discipline (aka "pop music") without a hint of sentimentality or bathos. In this song its like we hear him encountering the entirety of his life at once, summoning the legend of his past and breathing into his impending ghostliness; living fully in his experience and examining his persona as if disembodied. In the end, for me, this album is a testament not just to an exceptional musician, but an exceptional human being.
Charlie Haden - Song of the United Front A mournful little fight song from another courageous and soulful traveller.
Dungen - Panda I recently sent this to Steve and ordered him to listen to it loud. The moment at 0:26 when the groove kicks in is like the first wave of a drink or smoke, simultaneously stimulating and calming. I love both the playing and expertly rendered retro production. The Swedes, man. Damnit.
Yuck - Like a Moth - We're finally in the part of the cultural cycle where kids who were in diapers at the time are regurgitating the sounds of the '90's. For a guy like me, who was in prime music reception then, it's interesting to hear what has happened to those sounds along the way. Yuck have mastered several contemporaneous sounds, from the punky to the melodramatic - and churn out songs filled with the best ideas from '90's alternative rock. There's plenty of contemporary energy, too - but it's hard not to feel like I'll need to turn the cassette tape over in a few songs.
Björk - Atom Dance Ran across this on vinyl and just had to grab it. Björk has always been able to convey a certain rawness on the "feely" level, but the ideas behind the lyrics are often pretty inscrutable. It could just be the hook of knowing this album is about her divorce, but it feels for the first time like the thoughts, themes, and ideas are as direct as the emotions. Sometimes difficult to listen to, as the emotional confusion and chaos frequently infects the music in unexpected confrontations, but a tremendous stab at manifesting the experience of letting go. Plus, I'm always happy to hear Antony's utterly distinctive voice.
Rachelle Garniez - Who's Counting I encountered Garniez while investigating Third Man Records' Blue Series. A breath of fresh air from someone who's apparently been on the New York scene for quite some time.
Mariachi Flor de Teloache - Dicen Since learning about them when they were part of Dan Auerbach's The Arcs, I've been totally enamored with this all-lady mariachi+ band from New York. I think they're basically a super group. In a class with a group like the Carolina Chocolate Drops, simultaneously breathing life into traditional forms while reflecting the contemporary milieu they call home. Chock full of respect, devoid of dogma.
M. Ward - Girl From Conejo Valley A little gem of song, full of finely-drawn details, wonderfully awkward turns of phrase ("my old girlfriend used to not to but now knows him well"? What?), and utterly perfect blasts of synth. Oh, M., you still got it.
Anderson Paak - The Season Carry Me Got turned on to Paak by my buddy James Lee. Totally distinctive, equally at home with melody and rhyme, authenticity up the wazoo. Also, the dude can drum like crazy.
Gustav Mahler, Chicago Symphony Orchestra - Symphony No. 3 in Minor I had the privilege of seeing the great Hamburg Ballet when they performed two different programs in two nights at the Harris Theater. My favorite of the two was John Neumeier's stunning choreography to Mahler's Third. The performance essentially ruined me for other dancers, as most dance I've seen since looks like a high school production.