Best of 2018 Pick 11

Shad: A Short Story About War (Secret City, 2018)

This hip hop record is most certainly the first record I’ve loved that has been traced back to NPR.  I can’t stomach the music picks of the New York Times or NPR but this record is great.  A hat tip to my friend Daniel for hipping me to this record.

The lyrics on this record shine — smart, conceptual, well thought out.  It’s called some sort of concept record but I think that’s bogus.  Just because an MC is intelligent enough to connect warmongering with capitalism does not a concept album make.  It’s called thinking mothefuckers.

The arrangements here are really good with no particular bent — there are some jazzy sounds and mellow ones and there are more driving and urgent arrangements (for example the tune clipped below).

Shad is a great MC with a friendly voice.  The tunes bounce back and forth between more militant and darker tunes about war (such as the third tuneStone Throwers (Gone In a Blink)) and more partyistic celebrations of blackness that will not be played at Trump Nazi rallies.

Regardless of Shad’s voice or the arrangments the draw here remains the lyrics.  Nobody in any genre of music is talking about war and capitalism and race and the environment in this manner.  All in a soulful and non-pretentious style.  When he busts out the line ‘they see people run, so they run, they see people die so they die’ — you can’t fuck with that.

Check it out.

 

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Music for 5/22/18!!! Young Fathers, Eric Chenaux, August Greene

@@@ Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar (Ninja Tune, 2018)  Off an All Music weekly email from a couple of months ago.  These guys are from Edinburgh and they employ a genre mash that most Americans won’t employ.  They smash together electronic sounds with indie fragility, hip hop, and soul music.  I know there are American musicians working these sounds but there’s a distinctly un-American vibe here.  Unfortunately an overarching impression is one of art school reflection and self conciousness.  I sure wish it hit a little harder but it doesn’t.  I know that I’m a minority in this area and things I’m criticizing here are perfectly acceptable to millions of listeners so check for yourself.

@@@ Eric Chenaux: Slowly Paradise (Constellation, 2018)  Off the same All Music weekly email.  If you took King Crimson and smashed them into the guitar player from Phish you would have something close to this record.  The second tune brings in vocals that change the equation and make it it more of a standards kinda thing.  So it’s some prog vibes, some hippy vibes and some songwriter vibes.  The guitar is highly processed and layered and purposely wanky and chunked up into pieces but that’s been on all three of the tunes so that’s core to the concept.  While I’m not enjoying the music immensely I give him points for creativity.

@@@ August Greene: August Greene (Self-released, 2018)  Super concious hip hop off the All Music weekly email.  This is not going to be a down and dirty trap excursion this is aimed at a different demographic with Robert Glasper adding sparse piano in this first tune.  And the whole record for that matter.  I like it all right.  I’m all for the uplifting lyrics but there’s something about the overall impression produced by the music that seems a bit predictable and set up for NPR listeners.  Regular readers know that I’m obsessed with hip hopper Open Mike Eagle and if you contrast his ultra original concious hip hop with this music it makes this seem wooden and closed off to a lot of sonic possibilities available to hip hop.  Be sure to check out Open Mike Eagle, I don’t really see how if you’re a real music fan you could not be blown away by his 2017 Brick Body Kids Still Daydream.

YTD recordings listened to: 281
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 148
Not good music: 124

Best: 5
Honorable Mentions: 4

Possibles: Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, Slidhr, The Chewers, Toxic Holocaust, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Leviathan, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Satoko Fuji, Moken, Juan Atkins, Lantern, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Unfun, De La Soul, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Gouge Away, Klara Lewis, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, Yotoco, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, Oddisee, Forro in the Dark, RAM, Fiver, Dona Onete, Succumb Succumb, Gloom, Priests, Propaganda, This is the Kit, Roberto Gonzalez, Integrity, Tuba Skinny, The Expanders, Converge, Open Mike Eagle, Criolo, Billy Strings, Flowers of Sulphur, Tal National, Portal, Hernan Sama & Marcelo von Schultz, Jean Grae and Quelle Chris, Lawaii, Los Texmaniacs

Music for 3/19/18!!! Hailu Mergia, Fyahbwoy, Leon Bridges, Jason Aldean

@@@ Hailu Mergia: Lala Belu (Awesome Tapes from Africa, 2018). I got to this African record via the WRIR playlist email.  I don’t find that much jazz in this first tune, it’s more of a soul tune with a little improvised accordion over it.  The instrumentation here is drums, bass, organ, accordion and percussion.  I like it, and I promise I won’t be a genre bitch. I like the accordion player but I want more than mostly straight jazz grooves — I want more funk or more outside playing or both.  It’s pleasant and the sounds are good.

@@@ Fyahbwoy: Cadenas De Oro | (Nacional, 2018).  An urban Latin single that I saw on the very same WRIR playlist email.  Keyboards, guitar, drum machine and a loverboy singer/MC.  I can’t tell if this is a drummer or a drum machine but does it matter that much.  He’s got some pretty nice Spanish dancehall toasting going on.  I prefer that to his loverboy routine.  It’s a solid track, if you don’t like the singer you’re not gonna like the tune.  I’m agnostic on the singer.

@@@ Leon Bridges: Bad Bad News (Sony, 2018). I’ve heard Bridges before and like his music but I’m a little surprised to see such fusion-y track on the Apple Music hot tracks section.  When Bridges starts singing I get why, he really can carry a song.  There is a little blues swirled up in the fusion but it’s pretty mid to late ’70s fusion jazz sounds.  If it had different sounds I would be up on this big time.  The bass sound is great but I can’t abide by the guitar sound.  Listen for yourself.

@@@ Jason Aldean: Rearview Town (Macon/Broken Bow, 2018).  That’s right Aldean is leaving town, probably because of a woman.  God damn, girl what did you do to my man Jason?  Broken hearts and rusted plows so he’s mixing his personal plight with the decay of rural America.  This is going to be a short review as I’m on the verge of tears.  Someone get me a Kleenex!  Power chords, a guitar solo that would make Bon Jovi proud.  I’ve attached the lyric video so you can get your heart torn out.  I have to break away and shed a few tears for Facebook as America discovers what an ill bitch spying machine it is.  Lots of tears over here so make sure you got some self-care lined up, the world is full of sadness.  Ya know, broken hearts and rusted plows!

YTD recordings listened to: 151
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 79
Not good music: 69

Best: 4
Honorable Mentions: 3

Possibles: Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Slidhr, The Chewers, Toxic Holocaust, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Leviathan, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Gentleman Surfer, Satoko Fuji, Moken, Juan Atkins, Lantern, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Unfun, De La Soul, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Gouge Away, Klara Lewis, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, Yotoco, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, Oddisee, Forro in the Dark, RAM, Fiver, Dona Onete, Succumb Succumb, Gloom, Priests, Propaganda, This is the Kit, Roberto Gonzalez, Integrity, Tuba Skinny, The Expanders, Irreversible Entanglements, Converge, Open Mike Eagle, Criolo, Billy Strings, Flowers of Sulphur

Music for 11/30/17!!! Benin City, Poppy Ajudha, Melis

@@@ Benin City: All Smoke, No Fire (Moshi Moshi, 2018)  A pre-release electronic single off the Line of the Best Fit tracks of the week.  Ah, after a somewhat menacing British MC, some hip hop skitter breaks out.  It’s hard to say if this is hip hop or not but I do appreciate that this track is about gentrification.  You’re flat is in my dancehall, you’re parking in my market, that’s a great line.  It’s got a pretty insistent pong keyboard arrangement that drives me a tad crazy and the MC gives way to a singer and then back so it’s got some disorientation built into it, but I dug the spirit.

@@@ Poppy Ajudha: Tepid Soul (Poppy Ajudha, 2017)  Another single off the Line of Best Fit.  More of a chill track than the first firestarter.  Female singer, mellow guitar, trippy keyboard, and a beat that’s a couple of steps above lounge.  Soak your hands in my tepid soul, I can’t really get a handle on what that line means as it’s the hook.  I’m pretty sure using the word tepid in a vocal hook is not the greatest idea.

@@@ Melis: Parallels (Virtuous Sound, 2017) Serious pop off the same Line of Best Fit tracks of the week.  Female singer keeping it trim and together until the exploding slightly kaleidoscopic chorus.  More like pop/adult alternative as the cheese factor is there but it’s lower than mainstream pop.  Let’s peep a bit more.  The second track opens up with piano and more fragile singing.  The third track sinks deeper into the bad relationship feelings.  This one is for the aggrieved ladies.

YTD recordings listened to: 771
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 413
Not good music: 321

Buys: 9
Honorable Mentions: 7

Possibles: Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Slidhr, The Chewers, Toxic Holocaust, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Leviathan, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Gentleman Surfer, Satoko Fuji, Moken, Juan Atkins, Lantern, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Unfun, De La Soul, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, Magrudergrind, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Gouge Away, Anna Hogberg, Klara Lewis, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, James Brandon Lewis, Yotoco, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, J.I.D., Oddisee, Forro in the Dark, RAM, Fiver, Dona Onete, Succumb Succumb, Gloom, Priests, Propaganda, This is the Kit, Roberto Gonzalez, Integrity, American Lips, Sudan Archives, Tuba Skinny, The Expanders, Benjamin Booker, Irreversible Entanglements, Converge, Boubacare Traore, Les Filles De Illighadad, Curtis Harding

 

Music for 9/20/17!!! Sowflo, Resinated, Hippo Campus

@@@ Sowflo: Farmer in Suburbia (Sowflo, 2017) I got an email from a music publicist promoting a post hurricane music benefit in Florida.  There are two dozen plus bands playing and these guys are one of them.  This is on the Sublime side of reggae affairs — light with touches of white boy rock.  A schmear of 311 as well, but I dig the drummer and the trombone player.  Oy this Safari auto spell check is a bit anti-Semitic — I typed schmear and I got schemer.  That’s offensive right?  I can’t wait for the spelling robot chip to be put in my head so we can avoid these situations.

@@@ Resinated: Smoke Signals (Right Coast, 2014). More weed friendly roots reggae from the aforementioned email above.  This opening tune has a little Jimmy Buffett up in its reggae flow, especially the lyrics.  The second tune has a bit of disco doobie in it, oh Lord these guys are gonna be dropping all manner of little flavors.  The singer has some Red Hot Chili Peppers in his business.  He sings better than Chili Pepper Duder but the tone is very similar.   I’m not feeling these lyrics, try them for yourself.

@@@ Hippo Glow: warm glow ep (Grand Jury Music, 2017). These guys are headlining one of the nights at this festival in Cocoa Florida.  They are also near the roots neighborhood but they add other influences including mainstream soft rock and frat boy rock.  They swirl a little prog guitar action into this second tune (clipped below!).  These guys do present a tight rhythm section but they’re not devoted to traditional reggae vibes, they feel comfortable rocking other sounds.  It’s a tad fratty and soft for my taste but that’s just me.

YTD recordings listened to: 609
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 325
Not good music: 258

Buys: 8
Honorable Mentions: 6

Possibles: Chris McGregor, Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Slidhr, The Chewers, Toxic Holocaust, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Leviathan, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Gentleman Surfer, Satoko Fuji, Moken, Juan Atkins, Lantern, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Unfun, De La Soul, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, Magrudergrind, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Gouge Away, Anna Hogberg, Klara Lewis, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, James Brandon Lewis, Yotoco, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, J.I.D., Oddisee, Forro in the Dark, RAM, Fiver, Dona Onete, Succumb Succumb, Gloom, Priests, Propaganda, This is the Kit, Roberto Gonzalez, Integrity, American Lips, Sudan Archives, Tuba Skinny

Music for 4/9/17!!! The Chainsmokers, Mack Wilds

@@@ The Chainsmokers: Memories…Don’t Open (Disruptor/Columbia, 2017)  On the Apple Music store it describes this mainstream electro record as the sound of domination in 2017.  That’s quite a bold statement and as it’s seder season that is a helluva matzoh ball hanging out there.  This first tune is a cheesy electro piano ballad — it’s not quite a bleu cheese that’s been left outside on a table on a summer day, it’s more of a mozzarella at an underfunded pizza place.  Cheese with some other chemical shit in it.  Oooh, robot sounds and gingersnaps, there’s nothing I like more!  This second tune, Break Up Every Night, has more of a rock feel with a pulsing synth bass and some Bon Jovi arena background vocals.  This third is hitting now and we’re back on the piano, yikes.  No good.  I certainly hope this is not the sound of world domination because these are some punkass cliche sounds.  No freshness fellas, no funk, just a boatload of cheap pizza toppings.  These guys should re-christen themselves the cheesemakers.  Christ.

@@@ Mack Wilds: After Hours (Empire, 2017)  Some r&b/soul off the new music section of Apple Music.  The most interesting aspect of this first tune is the doo wop vocal loop he’s got going.  Wilds has a loverboy approach on the microphone with the arrangements dominated by multiple vocal tracks and synths.  I like this third tune Senses far more than anything in the first two tunes, he shoulda opened the record with that tune.

YTD recordings listened to: 233
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 126
Not good music: 87

Buys: 1
Honorable Mentions: 1

Possibles: Chris McGregor, Dave Arner Trio, Zomby, Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Slidhr, The Chewers, Toxic Holocaust, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Fofoulah, Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Leviathan, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Gentleman Surfer, Satoko Fuji, Divanhana, Moken, Juan Atkins, Drone, Lantern, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Unfun, De La Soul, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, Magrudergrind, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Gouge Away, Anna Hogberg, Klara Lewis, Aethenor, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, James Brandon Lewis, Yotoco, Tinariwen, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, Power Trip, Reverend Payton, J.I.D., Oddisee, Feral Ohms, Orquestra Baobab

Music for 3/9/17!!! Colin Hay, Durand Jones, Worse

@@@ Colin Hay: Fierce Mercy (Compass Records, 2017)  Some ol’ school, earnest guitar rock off the Apple Music new music section.  Hay’s voice is pretty limited and the band is straight ahead.  Mr. Hay is Men at Work frontman from back in the day.  I would never wail on anyone for making heartfelt, sincere music but this isn’t really for me.  This is like stepping into a rock time machine back to the ’80s but without the irony.  A little Springsteen, a little Mellencamp.

@@@ Durand Jones & the Indications: Self-titled (Colemine Records, 2016)  I found this record via a music publicist email.  It’s definitely old school r&b but what sets it apart is the sweetness of the singer’s voice.  He’s got a little gruffness but mostly he’s sweet and soulful in the Al Green tradition.  Instrumentation is standard ol’ school.  Somebody did an excellent job on the drum sounds here and the drummer is tight.  I also hear a little Otis Redding as well as some James Brown but the drummer takes the cake and some more adventurous songwriting would be welcome.

@@@ Worse: Rubber Burner (Deranged Records, 2016)  Off the loud section of this week’s CFUV playlist email.  A 9 song 24 minute psych punk biscuit that opens with some grinding guitars and a blasted singer.  The second tune keeps the distorted blasted vocal sound but the overall vibe is more indie.  These guys bring a medium rough energy to their work.  I like what they do — if they went rougher and still kept the punk sounds I would dig it more.

YTD recordings listened to: 160
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 87
Not good music: 49

Buys: 0
Honorable Mentions: 1

Possibles: Chris McGregor, Dave Arner Trio, Zomby, Retox, Defeater, Jonwayne, Okkyung Lee, The Ballantynes, Slidhr, The Chewers, Toxic Holocaust, Susie Iberra/Roberto Rodriguez, Lenguas Largas, The Coral, T.O.M.B., Fofoulah, Lozen, Erase Errata, Mastery, Leviathan, Hartley C. White, Weed, Cold Water, Janelle Monae, Luther Dickinson, Graeme Barrett, Fast Asleep, Goldlink, Cavanaugh, Gentleman Surfer, Satoko Fuji, Divanhana, Moken, Juan Atkins, Drone, Lantern, Twin Peaks, Djelimady Tounkara, The Oh Sees, Denny Zeitlin, MILF, Unfun, De La Soul, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, Magrudergrind, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Gouge Away, Anna Hogberg, Klara Lewis, Aethenor, Krullur, The Lowest Form, Hard Proof, James Brandon Lewis, Yotoco, Tinariwen, Jungle Fire, Sandoz, Power Trip, Fruko Y Sos Tesos