I know, I know, I’m consistently inconsistent, but I’m trying to do better mainly because I feel like sharing music is all I have to keep me relatively sane. And if I consider all the pleasure I get from my daily listening and the possibility that I could spread that joy even just a little bit, then I’m basically punking myself when I don’t share posts because it’s something that I know is important to me.
So even though after all this time I feel like you are owed some sort of coherent wrap-up of all the music that has been filling my soul, I have to start here with this ultra-chill playlist that I made a while ago, which perfectly suited the Friday-after-work-vibes-with-a-strong-cocktail I was feeling when I put it on today. It’s got some songs from 2016, which for everything that it was in terms of borderline apocalyptic, has to go down as one of my favorite musical years along with 2013, 2009 and 1998 – and yes, there is a playlist dedicated to 2016: A Shit Year for the World but a Dope One for Music that will come.
The song on this playlist with the coolest background story has to be Ariel Pink’s “Baby”, which is a cover of an original by Donnie and Joe Emerson – two brothers from a tiny town in Washington state who cut a record in their home studio in the ‘70s after their father took out a loan on his farm to support his sons’ talents.
Dreamin’ Wild was pretty much unheard of until a crate-digger found it in a record shop in 2012, and eventually Ariel Pink’s cover of opening track“Baby” blew the lid on the long-forgotten passion project. The albumwas re-released shortly after the cover was, and the Emerson brothers got acclaim for the amazing album they made when they were just teenagers on a farm. So with that bit of optimism and reminder of good in the world, here’s a sit-back-and-chill playlist with a little old and a little new, which I mainly hope can briefly remove you from the craziness of the world right now, even if it’s just for the amount of time it takes to listen to twelve songs.
Tracklist: Ariel Pink – Baby
Night Moves – Colored Emotions
The Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows
Japanese Breakfast – The Woman That Loves You
Bon Iver – For Emma
Dumbo Gets Mad – Indian Food
The Flaming Lips – The Castle
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being in Trouble
Pond – Sweep Me Off My Feet
Soft Hair – Lying Has To Stop
Good Morning – Warned You
Khruangbin – Dern Kala
One of my Official Favorite Albums Of 2016 (So Far) is The Avalanches’ Wallflower, released this July and a whole sixteen years (read: musical lifetime) after the Australian genre-mashing outfit’s critically acclaimed first, Since I Left You. The new album is a rich scrapbook mosaic of samples from all kinds music cut and pasted together to make a pretty dope journey through bouncy hip-hop, shimmery sheeny disco, Beatlesy textures and smile-inducing pop references – like the distinct ‘na na na na na na na’ of ‘Getting Jiggy with It’, and a schoolyard chant rendition of ‘Come Together‘ by the Beatles in a song that reminds me of Gorillaz’ ‘Superfast Jellyfish‘.
My favorite sample though, is from ‘Because I’m Me’, the video for which was just released. The track opens with the ever-so-slightly distorted voice of a young boy singing what sounds like an old blues song, accompanied by a sampled snippet of the Honey Cones’ ‘Want Ads‘ which loops throughout. The kid’s voice is from this amazing collection of recordings called Street and Gangland Rhythms, Beats and Improvisations by Six Boys in Trouble: six black children aged 11 and 12 in a room with an audio recorder playing bongos, singing songs they’ve heard or made up in a sad, beautiful, funny and poignant snapshot of their lives living in a group home as future black men in New York City in the 1950s. The “song” in ‘Because I’m Me’ is actually a patchwork of words from a number of songs on the recordings, stuck together to make a tune about unrequited love.
I think one of my favorite things about hip-hop music is the use of samples because of the way those snippets can introduce you to a whole other world of music. Their use also shows the actual depth that goes into true hip-hop production- the work it takes to pick out an undercover piece of a song and make it “the get down” – the groovy baseline, the just-right beat, the thing that makes it fire, as the kids would say. (Related: if this is in any way interests you, you *need* to watch Baz Lurhman’s The Get Down.).
Wallflower contains so many great references you could make a whole other, pretty great diverse mixtape, and I also just love this recordbecause the tracks melt into each other so one song’s ending is another song’s beginning. It’s just so beautifully crafted that I pretty much can’t stop listening to it. And luckily, the videos for the singles have turned out to be just as charming, like this totally appropriate one for ‘Because I’m Me’ with a kid with an afro dancing in the subway backed up by horn players. How could you resist that?
This year looks like it’s going to be the year of my favourite music releases. Pretty much every morning when I wake up and scroll some news feed or other there’s always a little teaser, or even better, a whole new single that gets me right in the gut – a tear was shed for Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and I screamed a little when I saw the headline NEW FLORENCE + THE MACHINE.
So, here are some singles (and/or a teaser video) from my Top Six Most Anticipated Albums of the Year: Why I Think 2015 is Going to Musically Rule. It’s particularly exciting because a few of these artists (like Passion Pit and Florence) are releasing their third albums, which is when I think bands (and TV shows on their third seasons) really hit the sweet spot. By the third record, musicians tend to be more comfortable in their skins and they’re past the pressure of the sophomore album that has to be as good as the debut. My ears can’t wait.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – I have ‘Multi Love’ on heavy rotation while I impatiently wait for the new album.
Passion Pit – I JUST WANT THE NEW MUSIC (in the meantime I’ll just listen to Sleepyhead over and over and over)
Florence + The Machine – I want more of Florence’s voice in my life. Not want. Probably need.
Alabama Shakes – I missed you (lead singer) Brittany!
Donnie Trumpet + The Social Experiment – There’s enough Chance the Rapper and co. to hold me over on Soundcloud…for now.
Courtney Barnett – She’s one of my favourite Australians and has some killer quirky songwriting skills. She also once said I could join her Anonymous Club.
Since music is basically the bricks that line memory lane (well, that and the sense of smell), and I’m also always listening to something old while discovering something new, it only makes sense that I appropriate #ThrowbackThursday for a bit of aural nostalgia.
Sometimes I think that the universe puts certain music in my life (does that sound nuts?), and lately it’s been reminding me of the electro-rainbow melodies of Electric Guest and their first and only album Mondo, which was stamped with the trademark disco sheen of Danger Mouse production. Even though the album was released in 2012, one of my favourite tracks, ‘Waves’, is currently being (ab)used in a TV ad/commercial, and I recently ‘found’ an old Spotify playlist with a couple of beloveds from the LP.
It was nice to hear that the record still holds up, especially ‘Under the Gun with its ominously cool machine melodies, and that I don’t just crave Electric Guest because of the memories of living in L.A (where the group is from) when I was loving Mondo. The music still makes me want to move, and I’m looking forward to what the band puts out for their sophomore project without the help of the genius producer.
Word on the street (aka the band’s Facebook page) is that the new album is in the works; in the meantime, I’ll be jamming to this.
I don’t know, maybe it’s “Release Videos In My Favourite Places” Week because today Unknown Mortal Orchestra unleashed their video for “So Good At Being In Trouble”, parts of which was shot at the Venice beach promenade (and even features a muscle man I once rode the bus with from downtown) — which also brings me back to the point that there obviously needs to be a channel for videos like this one and Solange’s.
In case you haven’t been there yet, NPR does this wonderful thing where they stream full albums before their release dates and that’s where I first listened to Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s second album II and immediately knew that “So Good At Being In Trouble” was the one. It’s got this sweet familiar guitar riff taking you from section to section and an oh-so-smooth beat and groove that reflects sunshine and sunglasses. It’s a real get down kind of tune that gets me in the mood for chilled summer days, but that could also just be me, wishing I was frolicking with the weirdos in Venice. Either way, I really kind of dig this song (and this album)(and this band).
Just be prepared because your mind may be blown a little. When the song first comes on (after you get past some eerie beeping) you definitely hear hip-hop and you definitely feel something in your nerves that makes them twitch in a dance-y fashion. But this song goes just beyond that and takes you into some other type of galaxy , much like Flying Lotus does with completely otherworldy sounds that simultaneously don’t fit but do make sense in this universe. It’s something like future sounds, spacey handclaps and autotune voices that make you see stars and colours. There is a middle section – a bridge if you will – that is an utterly spectacular strip down that leaves you jamming to the sounds of a shaker and a single beat.
Javelin is a set of cousins making DIY electric music with layers of technology and ordinary sounds out of Brooklyn, New York and has been since around 2005. Their entire second album, called Hi Beams, is out on March 5 and available for preview on the Luaka Bop record page, which is a trip of its own with the 90’s neon jukebox flashing colours and, like a Google doodle, there’s stuff you can click on to make music.
But for now here’s “Nnormal” — and seriously, be prepared for four minutes of an ear-shaking ride because this track is anything but.
Joss Stone’s performance cover of ‘’The High Road’’ is about as soulful as you would expect from her (complete with the gesturing back-up singers that put their hands to their brows to search for the high road that’s hard to find). The British singer recorded her own version of the Broken Bells track for her album, The Soul Sessions Volume 2 and sang it live at the AOL Music studios over the summer. The original’s opening melodic woodwind is replaced with an angrier, edgier electric guitar that is a sign of things to come. Stone kind of rips it a new one and unleashes the more commanding, more daunting tone of the song, darkly daring you to come on and get your minimum during a thrashingly good performance. The best part (and my favorite part of the song in general) is how she takes the potential in the gospelly end “it’s too late to change your mind”, and raises it to an end of the song jam.
This is why I love a good cover – one that changes the color of a song by changing the genre with an interpretation that gives you a second chance at hearing the first meaning. I’m not really a Joss Stone fan but I have kind of always been keen on her voice and her performance style and sometimes the best of an artist comes out when they are singing to a song that isn’t “their own”. I think this one now belongs to her too.