“Orange Blossom” is a precursor to Destiny Frasqueri’s (Princess Nokia) album, 1992. The song itself is reminiscent of Frasqueri’s Afro Futurist style. “Orange Blossom” was released after Frasqueri’s experimental hip-hop album Metallic Butterfly. The song serves as a segway between Metallic Butterfly and 1992 as she departs from the experimental and recalls a soulful R&B influence instead.
For a good chunk of my life as a music consumer, I’ve described my taste as “anything but country.” I’m not sure where this antagonistic view comes from. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a region where country music dominates the airwaves. Maybe it’s my general aversion to corn. Maybe I’ve just pigeonholed myself as an urban elitist liberal and am the reason Hillary lost the election. Who knows.
All of this is to say that I’ve been making an effort to diversify my music library, and venturing into the world of country has been a major part of my journey. Along the way I came across the work of Loretta Lynn. She’s got some pipes, and her tunes are catchy enough that I’ve started humming honky tonk under my breath. “You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” has been a repeat offender in this regard. Anyone who’s got a bone to pick could get some satisfaction from singing the chorus out loud.
I’ve been a huge fan of the Byrds ever since my idealistic high school days, which is why I’ve been kicking myself for not listening to Gene Clark’s masterpiece of an album No Other until a few days ago. Since then I’ve been playing the album on repeat, and the grandiose sounds permeate the mundanity of my days with a brilliance I haven’t felt since first hearing the Dead’s American Beauty. “Life’s Greatest Fool” kicks off the album with Clark’s country croon, jangly guitars, a lofty choir. The upbeat tune moves you to perceive your surroundings with rose-tinted glasses, engendering a need for sun soaked road trips while this song blares in the background.
At a first listen, the grandiosity of the production can feel overdone, the lyrics pretentious in their sweeping statements; however, Clark’s delivery subdues the whole thing. He doesn’t give us a concrete perspective on life. He admits that “words can be empty though filled with sound/Stoned numb and drifting, hard to be profound.” And despite this the lyrics are rife with profundity in humbling ways. It’s a song full of questioning, Clark’s unique outlook bundled in the guise of genuine curiosity, open ended and unsure.
“Multi-love” is the colorful title track of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s latest album. It’s about a polyamorous relationship, a subject that intrigues me but is rarely explored (from what I know) in music, or even generally talked about. Lead singer and songwriter Ruban Nielson articulates the confusing challenges that polyamorous love poses to his concept of conventional relationships and gender roles with lines like “She don’t want to be a man or a woman/ She wants to be your love” and “We were one, then become three,” singing with an anxious sense of urgency in spite of his playful lyrics. I also love his voice, which is a sort of terra cotta brown and has the consistency of wet clay.* Give it a listen!
When I was about 11 years old, I heard my sister playing a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song (I think it was Runaway) and instantly felt shivers rush down my spine –– the vocals were so haunting, so beautiful; they struck me right to my core. I spent the rest of the day downloading their music off LimeWire (those were the good old days of torrenting). To my disappointment, when I listened to the rest of their music, I found myself at an odds; I felt addicted to the vocals, but could not quite get down with the slightly too aggressive lyrics and drum beats in most of their songs. Thus, with a void in my heart, I put the Yeah Yeah Yeahs away to never be revisited again… Until a faithful day in 2014, when my then-boyfriend and I went to see Her at the cinema. Once again, I heard that captivating voice, except this time it wasn’t screaming at me to dance till I’m dead; it was almost whispering to me, in tones that, for me, matched the singer’s voice perfectly, about love. Later that day, my void was finally able to be filled with Karen O’s solo tracks; here is a beautiful example of the kind of enchantment her voice holds.
One of my favorite sounds in the world is that of the vibraphone, a lesser-known jazz percussion instrument. When I hear it I see* small, luminescent, neon green (a color I’ve never seen in any other sound) orbs that tumble over each other like marbles and constantly swell and contract.
“Bag’s Groove,” composed by vibraphonist Milt Jackson and first recorded in 1952, is a 12-bar blues track with a catchy head comprised of descending notes. It features lively solos by Milt Jackson, alto-saxist Lou Donaldson, and pianist John Lewis. I personally go for the first and less famous recording because it’s concise, its pace is brisker, and (of course) because it has more vibraphone.
For the famous version, check out the Miles Davis Quintet’s recording. This track feels cleaner and more spacious in contrast to the rushed vibe of the original recording, probably because it’s eleven minutes long and has a more laid-back pace. And while Milt Jackson (who was part of the quintet) has a strong presence, it’s definitely more horn-heavy.
Here’s a rough illustration of the song:
A recent favourite of the internet’s music critics, Sampha has previously featured on songs from Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, Drake’s Nothing Was The Same, and one of my favourite electronic albums, SBTRKT’s SBTRKT. The song below, off his new album Process, sounds reminiscent of James Blake in Sampha’s more soulful voice, and of Joni Mitchell in the melancholy evocativeness of the lyrics.
If this song is up your alley, I encourage you to check out the whole album –– while Sampha is very versatile, his stunning voice weaves a thread from beginning to end.
Surreal electrifying energy. “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” is a hypnotic track on Electric Music for the Mind and Body, an album full of psychedelic strangeness. I cannot get over the seamless switches from bluesy garage rock to soaring, euphoric organ that pervade the song. Take a listen.
I am definitely late in terms of boarding the Mitski train, which is surprising –– she’s toured with Frankie Cosmos, whom I’m a huge fan of, and is generally considered an integral part of the DIY indie scene (or whatever the “correct” name for this kind of music is). I’d tried listening to her in the past, and was, I guess, a little put off by what I thought was a much more aggressive, rocky sound than I was expecting. All I can say is that I must have listened to the wrong songs, or had gone temporarily deaf, because dang! This girl can sing! (and write).
Sometimes she seems to look into the soul of the classic American sadboy (or girl); other times, she writes from her own perspective –– that of a triculture disillusioned outsider. Either way, her music is almost always very emotionally evocative. The song below, for example, instantly transported me back into the days of all-encompassing, identity-dissolving and unhealthy first love. It’s off her third album that came out in 2014: “Bury Me at Makeout Creek.” Have a listen!
In October, the Rolling Stone featured Lewis Del Mar as one of ten new artists you need to know.
Lewis Del Mar’s whole album will awaken your music taste buds. Their songs have a circus of clashing sounds that cleverly resolve. Each song feels scrappy and exhilarating. Fans of Foals, Alt-J, and the beach goth genre will enjoy the beach dreamscape feel of Lewis Del Mar. I feel as if I am washing up onto a serendipitous island full of vegetation and allure every time I listen to them. “Tap Water Drinking” has an electronic background layered with a folk guitar and a hip-hop sounding beat. The end of the song is a wild and satisfying cacophony. As a listener, I also loved how the lyrics of “Tap Water Drinking” validated the universal feeling of shallow attraction.