April 2017 - "Think of others, be their cover"

Hurray for the Riff Raff - Rican Beach I had heard about Hurray for the Riff Raff for several years before this new album (mostly from my dad), but was never really too impressed with their sound. This album seems to break away from the unconvincing folk-rock, especially with this song, which is sharp (both musically and lyrically) and groovy as hell. The lead guitar part is like the special secret sauce on top of an already delicious sandwich. 

Rose Elinor Dougall - Strange Warnings A great shiny, moody little confection the young British singer. She's new to me, but this record is great for concentrating or just relaxing. 

Joni Mitchell - The Jungle Line Hissing of the Summer Lawns is one of the classic Joni Mitchell albums I've never spent much time with. I stumbled on this recent tweet from Rob Moose, who arranges strings for Blake Mills (see, I snuck him in!). I couldn't agree more. This song sounds like something an enterprising indie pop group would throw together. Joni's voice and melodies are obviously very much her own, but the production and arrangement of the song are so sonically ahead of their time.

Bottle Tree - Nice Salamander Man, International Anthem (run by Faux Sounds friend Scott McNiece) is just killing it right now, releasing a string of great Chicago and Chicago-related music. (See jaimie branch, below.) Bottle Tree is far and away my favorite of the pack. Made up of multi-instrumentalist Ben Lamar Gay, singer A.M. Frison, and drummer Tommaso Moretti. Super groovy, super weird, and polyrhythmic as hell. Love this stuff. 

Fionn Regan - Babushka-Yai Ya Another newcomer to my ears. This song is quite different from the others on the album, which tend to be more smoothed out and atmospheric (with just a hint of Coldplay). I enjoy listening to the whole thing, but this song stands out in all ways. It actually does take me back to being in Moscow with Stevie Rocketship and seeing a great weird Russian brass band in the basement of some club. 

Odd Couple + Klaus Johann Grobe - Kothek A new collaboration featuring Klaus Johann Grobe, who I got turned on to by Scott McNiece. This is actually a cover of a song from a previous Grobe album, but way rocked out. Listening to them back to back is pretty entertaining actually. (Here's the other.) They turned this one up to 11.

Ghostpoet - Immigrant Boogie A new single from the British singer, who first appeared on Faux Sounds in April 2014 with a song from the Maison des Jeunes album, a collaboration of American/British musicians and Malian musicians. This song gets deep inside the immigration crisis in Europe, in the most empathic of modes. 

Mick Jenkins w/BADBADNOTGOOD - Drowning Another type of drowning. Chicago's own Mick Jenkins, backed by Canadian crew BADBADNOTGOOD, who seem to specialize in backing rappers. I guess it's just a thing we can expect from today's vocalists, but I'm still impressed by Jenkins' ability to switch back and forth between singing and rapping. 

Big Boi w/Killer Mike and Jeezy - Kill Jill Well, if Killer Mike's voice doesn't get you HYPED, you need to see the doctor. 

Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang - Build Music This group is a great hybrid, featuring American indie rock musicians backing Nabay, a leader in the bubu music of his native Sierra Leone - capturing a classic African groove full of contemporary sounds. I'd guess that no one in this band shies away from trying new things. Plus, damn, they sound great. 

Andres Landero - Perdí las Abarcas I have a fantasy of spending my twilight years playing bass in a folkloric cumbia group just like this. Very easy bass lines, maximum groove. I think I could happily grow old wearing a big cowboy hat and swaying slightly in the back of the band, playing those two notes.

jaimie branch - Theme 002 A fun, challenging, surprising, and intellectual knock out of an album, courtesy International Anthem. With an unorthodox quartet (trumpet, drums, bass, and cello), this group gets deep in a pocket together, then gets way out of it. I've never heard anything quite like it. branch is from Chicago, but has lived in NYC for several years. This music is largely improvised. Check out the short film about branch below, and give the whole record a spin. You're guaranteed to hear something you didn't expect. 

Feist - The Wind From Feist's new album, Pleasure. I actually had decided the album wasn't that great after two listens. A few weeks later I gave it another chance, and I'm glad I did. Its understatedness tricked me. I thought, "Well, this is kind of just Feist strumming aimlessly on a guitar." Deep listening turns up a lot of beauty and a lot of sneaky little ear puzzles. I'll always feel endeared to Feist for her surprisingly robust performance at Pitchfork a few years back, where she tore it up on guitar. She's a sneaky one. 

Kevin Morby - Beautiful Strangers A rambling bramble of Dylanesque musings, with plenty of trenchant contemporary references that add up to more than the sum of their parts. Full of compassion, and a kind of opening up of the self to oppressed people all over. 

"If you ever hear that sound now
If the door gets kicked in here, they come now
Think of others, be their cover
I am what they're not"

Mor Thiam - Ayo Ayo Nene A great African jazz workout from Senegalese-American drummer Mor Thiam (father of singer Akon, btw).