The Fortnightly Playlist, June 17th, 2018

Well folks, we’re a little on the late side this time around, and who knows if my internet will allow me to even post this as it has been extremely temperamental today. This edition gets into international music quite a bit. Iceland, Canary Islands, Bulgaria, India, and Benin are all represented in this edition of the Fortnightly. There are some big new singles from Gorillaz and Death Cab for Cutie, and there are really exciting new albums from Angelique Kidjo, Lazerbeak & Longshot, Busdriver, Brownout, and M. Ward.

Funk/Latin powerhouses, Brownout, are taking on another classic. After releasing 2 albums of funk interpretations of Black Sabbath (Brownout presents Brown Sabbath I and II), the group is now taking on  hip-hop legends, Public Enemy. In the new record, Fear of a Brown Planet, we are treated to complete reworkings of many Public Enemy classics. This is an amazingly fun album, and it allows you to see some of this classic material in a new way.

In the last few years, I’ve come to think of hip hop as the genre that seems to be pushing boundaries the most in music. Maybe it is just the current cycle we are in, but, in terms of bold creativity, hip-hop is the current leader. Busdriver’s latest album, electricity is on our side, is a perfect example. The album is incredible. It’s somehow MC at a danceclub, and jazz at a winebar at the same time. Busdriver, and other artists like him, are pushing Hip-hop into all kinds of territory that people don’t expect. Because of the borrowing culture that has surrounded it from early on, it’s a genre that seems to have no limit to what it can draw into itself. electricity is on our side can seem a bit out there on the first listen. Maybe it is an acquired taste. Maybe some will find it inaccessible in its complexity. I think it may be one of the best records of the year.

I have a lot of favorites in this edition, but there are a few that have struck me particularly. Van Stee, Angelique Kidjo, Mazzy Star, Kiran Ahluwalia, Lazerbeak & Longshot, and Courtney Marie Andrews are some great ones this time around.

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Tracklist:
Van Stee – Here Comes The Fire
Gorillaz – Humility
Longshot, Lazerbeak – Just Dance
Brownout – Fight the Power
Angelique Kidjo – The Great Curve
Kiran Ahluwalia – Khafa
Busdriver – I been there
Eptos Uno – Peso Pesado
Olafur Arnalds – re:member
The Mystery of The Bulgarian Voices – Sluntse
Mazzy Star – Still
Courtney Marie Andrews – Long Road Back To You
Luke Winslow-King – Blue Mesa
The National Reserve – New Love
M. Ward – Miracle Man
Lord Huron – Secret of Life
Death Cab for Cutie – Gold Rush
Desert Mountain Tribe – Spyders
Olafur Arnalds – unfold
Dat Garcia – Anfibio (Space People Remix)
Pablo Fierro – Timanfaya
Rosalia – Malamente
Longshot, Lazerbeak – Parades
Nocando – She Went to War
Busdriver – pull the sky closer

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The Fortnightly Playlist, June 3rd, 2018

So if you’ve been reading this lately, then you know how much I’ve been talking about Ry Cooder’s new record. This edition, I’m also including a track from his son, Joachim’s, new record, Fuschia Machu Pichu. I’ve been listening to this record a lot lately, and especially this track that I’ve included “Everyone Sleeps In the Light”. Also in this edition, new albums from Wooden Shjips, Chvrches, Sudan Archives, and Neko Case. There are new singles from Dawes, Mitski, and Rubblebucket as well.

Black Thought has never really gone out on his own much, and taken on projects outside of The Roots. Streams of Thought Vol. 1 is an impressive release. The 5-song EP is produced by 9th Wonder and The Soul Council, and covers a range of topics. Of course, Black Thought is well known as a great lyricist, and this EP really highlights his abilities distinctly.

I’ve written in the past about Sudan Archives, and I was so happy to see more new music from her this year. The genre-defying violinist is back again with a new 6-song EP called Sink. She blends various techniques on the violin, but throughout her music you here traces of the North African styles that are particularly influential to her. It’s difficult to say what her music is. It’s R&B, but centered around the violin. It’s pop, but it’s eclectic and unline any other pop music you can point to. It is complex and layered, but uncluttered and simple. She’s building a sound so distinctly her, and I absolutely love it.

Other highlights that I haven’t discussed here are the new Neko Case, Parquet Courts, Halo Maud, and Dawes. There is also plenty to look forward to yet this year. The new Angelique Kidjo is one that I’m looking forward to this coming week. I’m thinking I might write an extra something toward the end of this month about my favorites in the first half of the year. I’d be curious to know what my readers have enjoyed so far this year as well.

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Joachim Cooder – Everyone Sleeps in the Light
Sudan Archives – Pay Attention
J. Cole – KOD
Black Thought – 9th vs. Thought
Halo Maud – Tu Sais Comme Je Suis
Neko Case – Last Lion of Albion
The Joy Formidable – Dance of the Lotus
Chvrches – Forever
Rufus Du Sol – No Place
Sin Fang – Wasted
Mitski – Geyser
Wooden Shjips – Staring at the Sun
John Prine – God Only Knows
Thunderpussy – All In
Wand – Perfume
Parquet Courts – Total Football
Rubblebucket – Fruity
Kung Foo Grip – Mic Check
Planet Asia – Executive Criminals
Sudan Archives – Escape
Ry Cooder – Jesus and Woody
Gretchen Peters – The Boy from Rye
The Jayhawks – Everybody Knows
Dr. Dog – Go Out Fighting
Dawes – Living In The Future

Ry Cooder

Where do I even start to talk about my all-time favorite guitar player? Where do you start to discuss an artist that has done it all? Well, let’s start with the fact that he released his 17th solo album last week… well, that’s a bit misleading. He has also been invloved to varying degrees with over a dozen movie soundtracks, and some of them are entirely his compositions. He’s also collaborated with such prominent international artists as Ali Farka Toure, V.M. Bhatt, and The Buena Vista Social Club. When he was just 17, he was in a band with Taj Mahal. He collaborated with the Rolling Stones, and Keith Richards may or may not have stolen certain riffs from him that became hits. But now I’ve put everything out of order, so let’s just start in properly.

Ry Cooder:

In 1965/66 a group of young unknowns recorded about an album’s worth of material. The young men, known as The Rising Sons, were all remarkably talented, but, all being very young, they hadn’t developed the leadership or musical direction to continue. They all went on to have long careers in music, but the most prominent names in the group were Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder. At the time of performing and recording with The Rising Sons, Ry was still a teenager. Ry was then involved early on with Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, and played lead guitar on Safe As Milk. Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) was notoriously difficult to work with, and Ry was not even the first to leave the group noting various outbursts and erratic behavior.

The Rolling Stones albums Let it Bleed and Sticky Fingers included contributions from Ry as a session player. Ry is heard on mandolin on Love in Vain and on slide guitar on Sister Morphine. Those are the official credits… It is often claimed that Keith Richards snagged some Ry Cooder riffs for Honky Tonk Women. During the Let it Bleed sessions, some of the Stones members recorded a series of jam sessions with Ry and Nicky Hopkins. Those sessions were later released as Jamming With Edward! 

1970 marked the start of Cooder’s solo career. Interestingly, at a time when original songs were driving the industry, Ry opted to mainly feature re-arranged and modernized folk, blues and gospel tunes written by the likes of Blind Willie Johnson, Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash and Alfred Reed. Among his first several records, there are only a few original songs, but he did develop a distinct sound. The music is diverse, and he displayed a real talent for arranging blues, gospel, country, calypso, tex-mex, and Hawaiian music. He re-enlivened and electrified the songs of American folk artists of all styles. During this period, he would continue to be credited as a studio musician for many other artist such as Van Morrison, Arlo Guthrie and Gordon Lightfoot. Ry released 8 records by the end of 70’s.

In the 80’s, Ry turned his attention to film soundtracks. So, in addition adding 3 new solo records during this period, he also worked on the soundtracks for 10 films. The most prominent of these are Southern Comfort (1981), Paris, Texas (1985), Music from Alamo Bay (1985), and Crossroads (1986). Throughout the 80’s, Ry toured with an all-star group of musicians that he had collected during his now long career. The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces featured Flaco Jimenez on Accordian and vocal quartet: Terry Evans, Willie Greene Jr, Arnold McCuller, and Bobby King.

The next decade brought change again. While his contributions to movie soundtracks continued at a solid pace, Ry’s solo career quieted. He turned his energy to collaborative efforts that broadened far beyond anything he’d done before. He began to work on world music crossover projects. The first of these, Meeting by the River (1993), was with V.M. Bhatt. The Hindustani classical musician is a virtuoso of the Mohan veena. They blended beautifully together, and also was the first time that Ry’s son, Joachim, would collaborate with his father on percussion. Meeting by the River won a Grammy for Best World Music Album in 1993.

Talking Timbuktu (1994) was a collaboration between Ry and Ali Farka Toure. Toure is one of Africa’s most renowned artists. He is largely considered to be the father of modern music in Mali, and he is the inspiration  for such artists as Songhoy Blues and Bombino. Ali Farka Toure would have a lasting effect on Cooder, and he would later relate in interviews how much he learned from Toure during their work together. Talking Timbuktu won a Grammy for Best World Music Album in 1994.

In 1996, Ry traveled to met up with British producer, Nick Gold, in Cuba (via Mexico due to the US trade and travel embargo). The two gathered and organized a large group of performers to record an album of Cuban son music. The album, Buena Vista Social Club, was met with high praise from critics, and became a landmark around the world that spurred interest in Cuban music. It charted in over a dozen European countries, topped the latin charts in the US, and launched the international careers of several Cuban performers. Buena Vista Social Club won a Grammy for Best Tropical Latin Performance in 1997. Ry had to pay a $25,000 dollar fine for violating the US embargo with Cuba.

Manuel Galban was another connection that Ry made during his time in Cuba, and the pair had discussed the possibility of a Cuban electric guitar band bringing to life the 1950’s atmosphere. The result was Mambo Sinuendo. It’s a beautiful, atmospheric, electric guitar, mostly instrumental record. Mambo Sinuendo won Best Pop Instrumental Album.

In 2005, Ry returned to his solo career with what is sometimes called his California Trilogy. Chavez Ravine was his first solo release since 1987, and it was clear that his diverse experience since had changed his musical identity. It’s a concept album and a historical album based around a Mexican-American community that was demolished to build public housing. Eventually, what was actually build there was the Dodgers stadium as part of their move from Brooklyn. The record incorporates chicano-rock, and latin-jazz into Ry’s sound, and it dives into more modern sounds as well. Chavez Ravine was nominated for Best Contemporary Folk Album Grammy-award, but did not win.

My Name is Buddy is perhaps the wildest idea for a concept album, and yet it is drawn into focus on relatable and accessible themes. The songs relate stories from the viewpoints of characters Buddy Redcat, Lefty Mouse and Reverend Tom Toad, but on American history to tell of labor strikes, farm failures, hobos and trains. It was a sharp turn from Chavez Ravine, and centers around bluegrass, tonkytonk, americana-folk, and country. My Name is Buddy is the first album in which Ry either wrote or co-wrote every song. The album earned him another grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album, but again did not take the award.

Stylistically, I, Flathead lands somewhere in between the previous two records, and rounds out the California Trilogy of concept records. The story is of salt-flat racer and country musician named Kash Buk. The tex-mex, country rock, and roots rock follow a story, but also have the feel like a romance for American car culture. With these 3 records, Ry had shown how much he had grown as a songwriter and arranger since his solo career in the 70’s and 80’s. He was writing much more of the music, and he was incorporating and exploring more styles than before.

Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down was a straightforward americana-folk album with socio-political themes you might expect from a modern Woody Guthrie. The album kicks off immediately with “No Banker Left Behind”, which sets a strong tone in a culture that has hit recession, market-crash, and big business bailouts. The protest element is present in the record, with songs about the dragging war and the difficulties for the working-class. Following up Pull Up Some Dust…, Ry came out with Election Special. It was full of themes that swirled around the 2012 presidential election. The rugged blues-rock and folk record included some scathing political cuts on tracks like “The Wall Street Part of Town”, “Guantanamo”, and “Take Your Hands Off It”, but still from his usual Woody guthrie-esque, working-man perspective.

And so finally, here we are up to the present day. Earlier this month, Ry’s latest record, The Prodigal Son, was released. For the first time since returning to his solo career, Ry is again drawing on the American folk and blues canon for most of the songs, and there are few original songs. That said, they all sound original. Ry’s encyclopdic knowledge of music allows him to draw from so many sources. He reinterprets the songs and draws them into a collection that helps you see them in new light. The new record has more of a gospel sound than perhaps anything he’s done before. Songs by Blind Alfred Reed, The Pilgrim Travelers, and Blind Willie Johnson are brought in along side a few originals to make a cohesive whole. While in interviews, Ry has said that this is less political and more a “just play your guitar” record, it still is an album that is focused and purposeful. The gospel messages in these tunes could be read as a damning indictment of our present culture. Ry has managed somehow to draw on all his experience and release what may be one of his best records ever.

I think Ry is a vastly underappreciated musician. You won’t find many people who have challenged themselves with diverse styles this way. You won’t find many musicians who have changed with every new record to this degree. And there are precious few who could come through a career so long without ever forgetting their working-class roots. Ry has a huge tour this summer and fall. His son, Joachim, has a new record (Fuschia Machu Pichu) this year as well, and will be opening as well as accompanying his father on drums.

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The Fortnightly Playlist, May 20th, 2018

There is so much in this list that I want to write about. The second single has been released from Angelique Kidjo’s reimagining of the Talking Heads classic album, Remain in Light, and you couldn’t ask for a better artist to present this album in a new way. I’m also including Childish Gambino’s single that took the world by storm two weeks ago. I actually didn’t see the video until the last edition was ready to go. There are fantastic new albums out from Wussy, Middle Kids, Bombino, Black Stax, and Ry Cooder, and there are some exciting singles from Neko Case and Balmorhea.

I usually listen to the radio throughout my workday, and glean all kinds of new discoveries from KEXP Seattle. Sometimes, I need to change things up, and recently I’ve finally checked out a podcast that I’ve been meaning to try for awhile. Romesh Ranganathan has a podcast called Hip Hop Saved My Life, and it has given me a few discoveries so far as I’ve caught up on some of the catalog of 50-some episodes. The best so far, though, has been Ocean Wisdom. Now, I’ve only been into Hip Hop for the past 4-5 yrs, so I’m no expert. That said, Ocean Wisdom can absolutely spit fire. His new double-LP, Wizville, was released back in February, and features guest appearances from Method Man, Rodney P, Dizzee Rascal, and Jehst.

I wrote a bit about Ry Cooder recently, and last week his new album, Prodigal Son, was released. Ry is an artist that never quits learning, trying new things, and putting out the absolute best music that he can. On this new record, we are treated to a master of blues, folk and gospel giving us masterful blues, folk, and gospel. Ry may have delved deep into soundtrack composition and won grammys for his ambitious world music projects, but there is nothing quite like hearing a blues master just play his guitar. That’s what this record is, and it is beautiful. Standout tracks here are “Straight Street”, “Harbor of Love” and the title track. He’s played with such legends as Taj Mahal, The Rolling Stones, John Lee Hooker, Van Morrison, Ali Farka Toure and V.M. Bhatt, and he takes all the knowledge he’s amassed to this point and puts it into this record. Here’s more from Ry on The Prodigal Son.

Also, this week… Bombino released his new record, Deran, and in my eyes this is your reigning guitar-hook king. On the local side of things, Black Stax released a fantastic album of Hip-hop and R&B that just smashes it out of the park, and Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam) has a great new rocker of a record called Heaven/Hell. And finally, I’ve got to mention Middle Kids because the chorus on that tune, “Mistake” is so perfect. Enjoy!

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Childish Gambino – This is America
Angelique Kidjo – Once in a Lifetime
Aterciopelados, Ana Tijoux – Play
Black Stax – Loyalty is Royalty
Ocean Wisdom – Eye Contact
Nocando – True Autumn
Jeff Ament – The Door
Balmorhea – Shone
Ry Cooder – Harbor of Love
Sera Cahoone – Worry All Your Life
Traveller – Hummingbird
Half Man, Half Biscuit – Man of Constant Sorrow (With a Garage in Constant Use)
Courtney Barnett – Help Your Self
Goat Girl – Throw Me a Bone
Wussy – One Per Customer
Neko Case – Curse of the I-5 Corridor
Middle Kids – Mistake
James – Better Than That
Black Stax – Fiyahstorm
Ry Cooder – Nobody’s Fault But Mine
Bombino – Tenesse
Sidi Toure – Djirbi Mardjie
Nickodemus – Inmortales (Body Move)
Ocean Wisdom – Ting Dun (feat. Method Man)

The Fortnightly Playlist, May 6th, 2018

It’s an interesting mix this edition on the Fortnightly Playlist. It’s more hip-hop heavy than it has been in a long time, there’s some Blues and Americana, and a few unexpected turns in between. Local music in this edition includes Damien Jurado, Band of Horses, Thunderpussy, and Rell Be Free. There are new singles from Q-tip (A Tribe Called Quest), Ry Cooder, Wussy, Anderson.Paak, and Mazzy Star. This time around there are fewer artists from outside North America, but I have included Finnish singer-songwriter, Mikko Joensuu, and a few artists from the UK.

Thievery Corporation’s album from last year, The Temple of I & I, was among my favorites of 2017. They’ve now released a solid collection of B-sides and remixes from those sessions called Treasures from the Temple. There are some very worthwhile songs in it, and overall it all holds together very well. That said, I think they made good decisions in what made the original album. Some of these are slower tunes, some of them ramble, and some lack the hooks and the energy to make the cut. It was still a good listen. San San Rock, History, Voyage Libre, and Joy Ride are the best here in my opinion.

Seattle singer-songwriter, Damien Jurado, has released his new album, The Horizon Just Laughed, this week, but it the full album will not be available on streaming sites for another 2 months. He has released a 3rd single for streaming though, so that is included here. I got to hear the entire record on the radio the morning of its release. Included was an interview with Damien, and some of the songs were performed live on air. It’s a beautiful album that he’s made. It is intimate and purposeful. I definitely recommend this one.

I cannot recommend anything more than Mikko Joensuu. The Finnish multi-instrumentalist closes out the playlist this edition. He released 3 records over the course of 2016-17: Amen 1, Amen 2, and Amen 3. Stylistically, they cover a lot of ground. There are elements of rock, ambient, electronica, and various folk traditions. Start to finish, they are impressive and beautiful works.

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Tracklist:
Ry Cooder – Straight Street
Anderson.Paak – ‘Til It’s Over
Q-tip – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
Rell Be Free – Under My Skin
Sean Price – Fight Club
Lethal Bizzle – London (remix)
Janelle Monae – Crazy, Classic, Life
Beach House – Dive
Epic Beard Men – Fresh to Death (feat. Dope Knife)
Rell Be Free – Unchained
Slum Village – Hold Tight (Remix)
Thievery Corporation – Joy Ride
Mazzy Star – Quiet, the Winter Harbor
Trampled by Turtles – Thank You, John Steinbeck
Damien Jurado – Percy Faith
Wussy – Getting Better
Courtney Barnett – City Looks Pretty
Death by Unga Bunga – Cynical
Band of Horses – Nadie Te Va A Amar Como Yo
El Dusty – La Cumbia
Frank Turner – 21st Century Survival Blues
Thurston Moore – MX Liberty
Thunderpussy – Badlands
Chvrches – Miracle
GEMS – Crippled Inside
Mikko Joensuu – The Worst In Me

Just because I like it Vol III: Doomtree

This week I’m going to see Dessa. This will be the third time in the space of less than a year that I’ll be seeing a member of the Doomtree collective. In the past year, I’ve certainly written a fair amount about them. I’ve actually not been familiar with Doomtree all that long, but I really went all in when I discovered them for myself. I heard a live in-studio session on KEXP with P.O.S. back in January of last year, and I was convinced enough to include a track in the playlist. A friend commented on it saying that I should look into P.O.S.’ earlier albums and Doomtree. I jumped in with both feet, and listened to everything.

For those who aren’t familiar, Doomtree are a hip-hop collective from Minneapolis, MN. The group consists of rappers P.O.S., Cecil Otter, Sims, Dessa, Mike Mictlan and DJs Paper Tiger, and Lazerbeak. Each member has their own solo projects as well as various side projects. They own and operate their own label, and do nearly everything themselves. For their earliest releases, there was something of a DIY work-in-progress feel, and it seems they have learned and improved with every record they make. You can hear it in this playlist as it takes one song from each record chronologically. I’ve included some of their side projects and special appearances as well to get a better feel for what they’ve done.

Last fall, P.O.S.’ Chill, Dummy tour hit, and I saw him at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham, WA. At that point, I was already well familiarized with all of his material, and the show was an absolute blast. I got to meet him briefly afterward, and he was really cool and down-to-earth. By November, the Shredders album, Dangerous Jumps, came out, and there was another tour on the way. This time, Sims and P.O.S. handle all the rhymes, and Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger teamed up for some of their best work to date. In January of this year, I saw them at Chop Suey in Seattle. I’ve given some attention in the fortnightly playlist to Dessa’s new record, Chime, and I’m excited about seeing her at the Neptune in Seattle this Friday.

If you’re wondering where to start with this big of a catalog, then the best place is No Kings. This is really the cohesive full-collective album. From there, whichever member grabs you attention most is the place to go. For me that was P.O.S., Sims, Dessa and Paper Tiger.

The Fortnightly Playlist, April 22nd, 2018

Another big playlist of new music again this edition. When I make these there are a few things that I always try to do. One of my biggest goals is to include local, national and international artists. There’s always some fluctuation in this, but I feel like, in general, I make that happen. I really like the balance I’ve struck on this edition. Of course, there is the usual covering many genres as well.

Singer and violinist, Sudan Archives, has me excited right now. Her debut EP last year was truly unique, and the singles she’s released since then have grabbed my attention as well. On her latest release, Nont For Sale, she plucks the violin to an R&B beat. She sings beautifully, and she blends Sudanese fiddling, R&B, West African rhythms, and experimental electonic beats. I am super excited to see what she’ll come out with next.

Given that I’ve used spotify to share these playlists, there are sometimes artists that I cannot share. Ty Segall has been one of these… until now. Just in the last 2 weeks, Ty’s library went up on spotify.  The fuzzy garage psychedelia master is very prolific. Ty always has a new album out, so I’ve included a track from his latest record, Freedom’s Goblin. If you’re unfamiliar and interested in Ty, then I would recommend Manipulator as a good album to get started.

I have lived between Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC my whole life. At times closer to Vancouver, and now much nearer to Seattle. This means I’ve had the benefit of seeing pieces of both local scenes. Dan Mangan is an artist that I am so happy to know thanks to Canadian radio. It’s been 7 yrs since Dan’s last full-length, Oh Fortune. It has really held up as a favorite for me, and so I am really happy to see some new material from him. He’s actually been busy since then doing some work on various soundtracks. Oh Fortune and Nice, Nice, Very Nice in particular have shown us an excellent and insightful songwriter. I look forward to more from Dan Mangan.

My other favorites this time around are Trick Candles, Kultur Shock, Wye Oak, Parquet Courts, Altin Gun, and Lord Huron.

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Lord Huron – Back From The Edge
Fastbacks – I Was Stolen
Arthur Buck – I Am The Moment
Wye Oak – It Was Not Natural
Ament – Safe in the Car
Ty Segall – Alta
Sunflower Bean – I Was A Fool
Damien Jurado – Allocate
Sera Cahoone – Baker Lake
Dan Mangan – Fool For Waiting
Roja Y Negro – Tinta Roja
Residente – Sexo
Busdriver – GUSH
Epic Beard Men – Two Different Worlds
Bishop Nehru – Driftin’
Sudan Archives – Nont for Sale
Janelle Monae – I Like That
Trick Candles – Pretend We’re Alone
Kultur Shock – Mirakula Fantastika
Parquet Courts – Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience
Wussy – Aliens in our midst
Altin Gun – Goca Dunya
A.A.L – Such a Bad Way
Fidlar – Alcohol
Manchester Orchestra – No Hard Feelings
James – Busted
Thunderpussy – Thunderpussy

The Fortnightly Playlist, April 8th, 2018

Whew! Well, 2018 releases have picked up their pace by this point in the year, and I might be falling behind a bit. This will be one of the longest Fortnightly lists, and I still had to push some things until next time. Whenever this happens, I feel like I come out with one of my strongest lists though.

Last edition, I mentioned that my all-time favorite band, Pearl Jam, was back, and now this time I am focusing in on another of my all-time favorite artists. Ry Cooder’s last full-length album came out in 2012. He did release a live album in 2013 and tour extensively with Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White in 2015-16, so you can hardly say that it’s been a quiet few years for the multi-instrumentalist/music historian/songwriter. Ry’s career is fascinating to me (I have had a partially finished, more extensive project on him that has been sitting for awhile). He started playing music very young, formed a band at age 17 along with a young Taj Mahal, played with Captain Beefheart, and with the Rolling Stones (years later there was some dispute about the Stones building some hit songs around some riffs that were his). His first several albums were nearly all covers. He was something of an Americana master. Particularly, he was well-known for his slide guitar work, but he plays many. After several solo records, he began doing movie soundtracks and did some work with musicians around the world. He worked with legends like V.M. Bhatt (Grammy: best world music album of 1993), Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Farka Toure (Grammy: best world music album 1994), Manuel Galban (best pop instrumental album 2003), and, most well-known, the Buena Vista Social Club (Grammy: best tropical latin performance 1997). In the mid 00’s, Ry returned to his solo career, and now with almost entirely original material. Ry’s long career through diverse styles and with high-caliber musicians with numerous backgrounds has made him a truly one-of-a-kind artist. The new album, Prodigal Son, is set to be released on May 11.

Perhaps if Ry were to return to working with accomplished World musicians, then Bombino might be among those I could see him working alongside. I first heard Bombino sometime around late 2016/early 2016. He was an artist that changed my entire view of my own instrument. Bombino’s Touareg desert blues guitar playing opened up a whole different style of playing for me. With his last release, Azel, he began to delve into reggae and blend it in with his desert blues. On the newly released singles from his upcoming album, Deran, he continues working to weave reggae into his sound. From this, a new wordblend has been coined, “Touareggae”. I’ve included the song Tehigren here as it really is the clearest example of this. Deran is out May 18th.

Also this edition, I’ve delved into quite a lot of Latin music. Mint Field, Javiera Mena, Elsa y Elmar, and Centavrvs deliver a wide range of latin styles in this list. Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite have an excellent new album out. I’ve also included the latest from Kevin Devine’s Devinyl Splits series which is with Craig Finn of The Hold Steady. The Black Tones have put their very first song on spotify this week, and I’m excited to share this incredible local band with you all. Brandi Carlile remains at the top of my list for the year with her new album, By The Way… I Forgive You. All in all, this is quite possibly my favorite playlist I’ve put together this year. I hope you all enjoy it.

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The Black Tones – The Key of Black
Bombino – Tehigren
Thievery Corporation – Voyage Libre
Ry Cooder – The Prodigal Son
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite – No Mercy In This Land
Speedy Ortiz – Lean In When I Suffer
Mint Field – Ojos En El Carro
Brandi Carlile – Whatever You Do
Kevin Devine, Craig Finn – Galveston
Trembling Bells – My Father Was a Collapsing Star
Guided By Voices – See My Field
Illuminati Hotties – Paying Off The Happiness
Haley Heynderickx – Oom Sha La La
Courtney Barnett – Need a Little Time
Javiera Mena – Intuición
Elsa Y Elmar – Culpa, Tengo
Sons of Kemet – My Queen Is Harriet Tubman
U.S. Girls – M.A.H.
Czarface, MF Doom – Nautical Depth
Chris Carter – Blissters
Preoccupations – Decompose
Centavrvs – Debilidad
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Coolin’ Out (feat. Lucius)
Gengahr – I’ll Be Waiting
John Parish – Sorry For Your Loss
Angelique Kidjo – Born Under Punches

The Fortnightly Playlist, March 25th, 2018

Well, a week of vacation can leave you playing catch up a little with music releases as you return to normal life, but I think I’ve got an excellent list here of releases that didn’t escape my notice. New singles from some of my all-time favorite artists/bands, so I’m pretty excited about music in 2018. In particular, Pearl Jam, The Hold Steady, Damien Jurado and Joe Purdy have given me a lot to look forward to. New albums released by Jack White, Deva Mahal, The Decemberists, I Will Keep Your Ghost, and Ought also included this edition.

Plenty of local music this time around. Damien Jurado, Pearl Jam, and Moondoggies all here. I’d like to give a quick shout out to I Will Keep Your Ghost. The Everett-based band mixes dance and electronic music with vocal-driven rock, and includes someone I know as my bartender at my local pub. I really think this is going to be something of a breakout for them. The record is just 5 songs, but it is excellent.

My all-time favorite band has released their first new material in 4 and a half years. Pearl Jam are back, and the new single, Can’t Deny Me, has been confirmed to be from an upcoming album. This is combined with a spring/summer tour through South America, Europe and then North America. The years since their last studio album, Lightning Bolt, have been far from quiet. Several Pearl Jam projects have found their way into some Fortnightly Playlists in the last couple years. RNDM, The Levee Walkers, and several artists on Mike McCready’s label, Hockeytalkter, have been featured here. I’m so excited to see them reconvene as Pearl Jam once again.  It’s their first release since their induction in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last year.

Other favorites this time around include Deva Mahal (daughter of Blues Legend, Taj Mahal), The Hold Steady, and the newest from The Decemberists.

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Tracklist:
The Decemberists – Once In My Life
Hiss Golden Messenger – Standing In The Doorway
Pete International Airport – Flowers of Evil
Pearl Jam – Can’t Deny Me
The Hold Steady – Eureka
Jack White – Over and Over and Over
Ought – These 3 Things
I Will Keep Your Ghost – Gold Leaf
Damien Jurado – Over Rainbows and Rainier
Joe Purdy – Moonlight
Dr. Dog – Buzzing in the Light
Deva Mahal – Turnt Up
Zaki Ibrahim – Cut Loose
Young Fathers – Turn
Mere Women – Eternally
Moondoggies – Sick in Bed
False Heads – Retina
Sleeptalk – I Hope You’re Doing Well
Deva Mahal – Can’t Call It Love
Shame – One Rizla
Dreams – No One Defeats Us

The Fortnightly Playlist, March 11th, 2018

Here we are into March, and we’re entirely into 2018 music with this edition. New albums out from Delvon Lamar Organ Trio, Young Fathers, Camp Cope, Imarhan, Jen Cloher, and David Byrne (The Talking Heads), and new singles from Neko Case, Yo La Tengo, Janelle Monae, CHVRCHES, and Jon Hopkins are all included this time around.

The new Brandi Carlile album, By The Way, I Forgive You, has really been a standout record for me. Brandi has carved out a place for herself somewhere between pop/rock and folk/country, and her latest is a showcase of her talents in bringing these different parts together. Last edition, I included the contemplative and reflective country tune Every Time I Hear That Song and the passionate ballad The Joke.  This time I’m including Hold Out Your Hand. This tune has some twists to it. The verses have a sort of rambling classic country sound, and then the chorus breaks into a huge stomping sing-along. When you find an artist that continues to be better and better with each release, then it is worth following them.

There has been significant buzz around Janelle Monae’s new single. One aspect of this derives from Prince’s involvement in production for this record, and it doesn’t take more an encyclopedic knowledge of Prince to here a bit of the Purple One’s distinct touch in Make Me Feel. Monae’s performance here is amazing, and this single is going to be a big one for the year. It has all the makings of a smash hit, and yet has enough to stand on musically to avoid being played to death. It’s a unique balancing act here, and I look forward to hearing what the rest of the record holds.

Other personal favorites in this list are Buffalo Tom, Young Fathers, Jen Cloher, CHVRCHES and David Byrne.

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