August 2017 ~ African Fake Out

Deerhoof - Come Down Here and Say That From Deerhoof's new album, which features collaborations with a bunch of (mostly) women. Deerhoof is sneakily becoming my favorite band, and it makes so much sense for them to work with Laetitia Sadier, the Stereolab chanteuse. Deerhoof continue to demonstrate their mastery of shifting between textures and genres. Sometimes it sounds like a mashup of two different bands. The lyrics mirror the musical dexterity and counterpoint in this song, balancing the toughness of the title sentiment against the defiantly melancholy of the coda - "We dance merrily, for we are sad." 

Cody Chesnutt - Africa the Future Cody Chesnutt went ten years between his first album, the inimitable lo-fi soul gem The Headphone Masterpiece, and five years between the follow-up and this, his third. It feels like he's settled into a groove. 

Here Lies Man - You Ain't Goin' Nowhere Press for the debut album from this group says it sprang from Antibalas guitarist Marcos J. Garcia's quest to discover what a the love child of Black Sabbath and Fela Kuti would sound like. If this is any indication, the answer is clear: Damn good. 

Tobacco - Feels Like Nothing Working on putting this playlist together, it started to feel like there was a secret theme - music that sounds like it's from Africa, but isn't. Ultimately, this song clearly bears the hallmarks of Tobacco's gritty synth workshop, but that central riff is pretty ambiguous. See Msafiri Zawose, below.  

Arthur Rubenstein/Chopin - Nocturnes, Op. 9: No. 3 in B Major Chopin's Nocturnes have become the music that gets me through the more anxious parts of the day. After a couple decades of tenuous relationships with classical music, I've accepted that solo piano is kind of my jam. I think it may just be a little easier to wrap my head around. 

Kaki King - Ingots For years and years, Kaki King's ...Until We Felt Red was the album I worked to. There was something about the music itself, and then, eventually, I'd listened to it so many times while working that it started to have a kind of Pavlovian effect. This is from Legs To Make Us Longer, the album directly preceding ...Until We Felt Red. It's got the tricky guitar stuff that initially got her attention, but the ensemble play with drums and stand-up bass is incredibly tight, and much more generous than you would get from a bonafide guitar wanker. 

Amy O - Lavender Night You've just gotta love a tight pop song like this. Amy O gets done exactly everything she needs to in under two minutes. It's impressive. Guitar hook? Check. Three verses? Check. Three choruses? Check. Bridge? Check. Instrumental break? Check. I mean, what else do you need? 

Steve Lacy - Dark Red This is my favorite immersive musical experience since SZA's "Childs Play," which I gushed about in June. It's got a real bedroom feel. Actually, now that I think of it, this is in the Cody Chesnutt lineage. Very simple playing and production, but with a supremely confident musical identity. Great, but not flashy, singing. Sensuous with no whiff of cheese. Lacy played with The Internet, and is part of the Odd Future ecosystem, joining other Odd Future outliers like Vince Staples, who transcend that whole musical subculture. 

Deradoorian - Violet Minded Angel Deradoorian's whole second solo album continues to be one of those pieces of music that I love listening to, but can barely wrap my head around. Always the most powerful secret weapon of Rise Above-era Dirty Projectors, she's clearly metabolized the smorgasbord of music that band drew from and added her very own cosmic seasoning. Pitchfork reports that she's got a new "mini-album" coming out in October. Can't wait. 

Sarah Elizabeth Charles - Bells I stumbled on Charles while stalking Christian Scott on the internet. He produced this album, plays on some tracks, and has collaborated with Charles a bunch of times. A great voice, standing up effortlessly to the vigorous instrumental acrobatics. 

Msafiri Zawose - Chibitenyi See? Dirty synthesizers. African rhythms. Ok, sure, this is waaaayy more African, with all of the percussion, but all kinds of lines are blurred in this song. Hailing from Tanzania, Zawose is a star of that region's traditional gogo music. For this album, he collaborated with producer Sam Jones, recording bed tracks in person, and then collaborating over the internet to negotiate the new flavors that push the traditional gogo sound in new directions. 

Aesop Rock - Corner Store From Aesop Rock's instrumental soundtrack for the movie Bushwick. I keep meaning to really dig into Aesop Rock, known as one of rap's most hyper-verbal MCs. Obviously, an instrumental album kind of wrenches up that pursuit, but there's clearly more to look for in his music than just the words. 

Kronos Quartet & Sam Amidon - Oh Where I'm not sure there's a group more devoted to and successful at collaborating than Kronos Quartet. For the album Folk Songs, they recorded with four different singers: Natalie Merchant, Rhiannon Giddens, Olivia Chaney, and Sam Amidon. It all sounds great, but the Amidon songs work especially well, I think because his primary mode is layering gritty American folk with surprising, and sometimes very avant garde, arrangements and instrumentation. Listen to his guitar playing here. How absolutely minimal it is, making all kinds of room from the strings - confidently plodding along. I'm guessing a folk singer less experienced at getting outside the box would have a difficult time laying this far back. And Amidon's voice is just so perfect for this music. 

The Lemonheads - Into Your Arms This song popped into my head from far away one day while I was feeling very appreciative for my lady, who always tunes in and helps when I'm having a rough day.