The Fortnightly Playlist, January 14th, 2018

It’s the first Playlist of the year, and already there is a lot of new music to look forward to in 2018. We start the list with some slide guitar and gospel from The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band off of last year’s Front Porch Sessions. We’ve also got some brand new singles from Young Fathers, Xenia Rubinos, Seun Kuti, Sunflower Bean and Tara Beier. The first few albums of 2018 are out from Typhoon, The Academic, and Kyle Craft, and by next edition we’ll also have new records from Jack White and First Aid Kit as well.

Seun Kuti has been making music from a very early age, and now it shows now that he already has a career over 20 yrs. His father, Fela Kuti, is considered a pioneer of Afrobeat music, and Seun was opening for his father’s shows by age 9! I’ve included Seun’s new single in full rather than the radio edit. It’s 9 and a half minutes, and included a guest spot from Carlos Santana.

One of the funnest tracks in this edition for me is Damascus Market Dub by The Spy From Cairo. If you enjoy it, then I strongly recommend giving the whole album a listen. The album came out late 2017, and is a great blend of electronica, dub and middle eastern sounds. It’s definitely one that you can listen to straight through. It’s also something of a multi-purpose album. It flows so well, and has enough of a chill vibe to it that you can listen to it while reading without it being obtrusive, but you can also dance to it. Not often you find an album like that.

Other favorites this time include the debut EP from local band CCFX, a beautiful new single from The Black Pine, and Cuban rapper El Cepe MC.

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Tracklist:
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Let Your Light Shine
Seun Kuti – Black Times
Xenia Rubinos – Levitating
The Spy From Cairo – Damascus Market Dub
Kehlani – Already Won
Young Fathers – Lord
The Black Pine – And The Sea
CCFX – The One to Wait
The Academic – Why Can’t We Be Friends?
Sunflower Bean – Crisis Fest
Spirit Award – Fields
Jack White – Connected by Love
Kyle Craft – Something on Your Mind
First Aid Kit – Ruins
Helga Arvesten – Don’t Speak
Fenne Lily – For A While
Ages and Ages – How it Feels
Tara Beier – Forgiveness
Kris Delmhorst – All the Way Around
Typhoon – Rorschach
Fadoul, Sharhabeel Ahmend – Argos Farfish
El Cepe MC – Mi Aire
Joe Henry – Dark is Light Enough

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The Fortnightly Playlist, December 31st, 2017

Well, here’s to another year. Last edition featured my favorites for the year, and this edition will include some goodbyes to musical heroes, a couple albums I slept on this year, and a look forward to a few albums coming out in early 2018. As such, there will be more of a mix between some old and new music this time around.

The Goodbyes
I know there were a lot of big losses this year, and so I just wanted to share the ones that were big for me personally. Otherwise this playlist will get very long. I’m sorry if there’s someone you were hoping would be here that isn’t.

Kevin Garcia (Grandaddy) – Back in January, Grandaddy came out with their first album in 11 years. They announced a tour, and were a few days from playing here in Seattle. Then their bassist and co-founder, Kevin Garcia, had a sudden stroke, and passed away at age 41. The return just suddenly wasn’t. Included this week is a track from the new record, Last Place, and a track from 2003’s Sumday.
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Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave) – He’s one of the greatest rock singers of all time. I remember turning on the radio that morning while making breakfast. Soundgarden was playing, and then back-to-back Soundgarden… then the DJ came on to say that Chris Cornell was gone. I listen to the radio most of the day most days, so that day, and I listened that day to Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog, Pearl Jam, Chris Cornell, Johnny Cash’s cover of Rusty Cage, Chris with Mad Season. It felt like the world changed for me that day. I don’t know what more to say, so here’s a letter to Chris on his birthday from Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam.
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Charles Bradley – Charles had a difficult time fighting for his break. He worked odd jobs, and performed as a James Brown impersonator. Finally, he got the opportunity to perform his own original material, and at age 62 his debut album, No Time For Dreaming, was released. It was a long buildup to a what became a short career, and Charles sadly passed away from stomach cancer in September. He did give us 3 amazing albums in the last 6 yrs of his life. I’ve included in this edition of the Playlist, one song from each record.
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Gord Downie (The Tragically Hip) – The rockstar without the ego. The poet without the self-importance. Hip fans hung on every word. Gord will always be one of my favorite lyricists. The Hip’s second-to-last album, Now For Plan A, featured songs about his own journey as his wife fought and beat breast cancer. Then 4 yrs later along with the official announcement of their final tour and album, Man, Machine, Poem, it was announced that Gord had Glioblastoma. Gord would give us 2 more solo records before he passed away in October. The last, Introduce Yerself, was released posthumously.
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Also included this edition are albums from Craig Finn (The Hold Steady), Kele Okereke (Bloc Party), and 45th St Brass that I missed earlier on this year. Looking forward to 2018, there are new singles from Dessa, Kyle Craft, First Aid Kit, Thunderpussy, and The Hold Steady. The new single from Dessa, Fire Drills, has me particularly excited. Her album comes out February 23.

Happy New Year!

Josh

Tracklist:
Gord Downie – The East Wind
Grandaddy – Way We Won’t
Kele Okereke – Grounds for Resentment
Charles Bradley – The World (Is Going Up In Flames)
Kyle Craft – Heartbreak Junky
Chris Cornell – Seasons
The Tragically Hip – It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken
Soundgarden – Fresh Tendrils
The Hold Steady – Entitlement Crew
Thunderpussy – Velvet Noose
The Tragically Hip – At the Hundredth Meridian
Audioslave – Cochise
First Aid Kit – Fireworks
Grandaddy – Lost On Yer Merry Way
Gord Downie – Faith Faith
Chris Cornell – Bend in the Road
The Tragically Hip – The Lookahead
Craig Finn – Birds Trapped in the Airport
Dessa – Fire Drills
Charles Bradley – Through the Storm
45th St Brass – P.B.M.J.
Charles Bradley – Change for the World

Top 10 Favorites of 2017

This list was difficult, and I, of course, made it more difficult by second-guessing myself a lot. There are several other releases this year that I just can’t not mention because they are brilliant records that deserve to be part of the conversation. This edition of the Playlist includes a track from each of my top 10 as well as my honorable mentions. I tried to mostly go with songs that I haven’t shared previously. Enjoy!

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
Lo Tom – Lo Tom
Mighty Mo Rodgers & Baba Sissoko – Griot Blues
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears – Backlash
Akala – Visions EP (almost included this 5 song EP. It’s that good.)
Tinariwen – Elwan
Shredders – Dangerous Jumps
Filthy Friends – Invitation
Thievery Corporation – The Temple of I & I
Algiers – The Underside of Power
Sera Cahoone – From Where I Started
Nadia Reid – Preservation
Paper Tiger – In Other Words
Gord Downie – Introduce Yerself
Sampha – Process
Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (also, my favorite cover art of 2017)
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Now, on to my picks for top 10.

10. Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile to the Surface
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In Early 2010, I got a free song from Amazon, and I liked it so much right away that I bought the album (genius sales ploy, that was… but to this day I still think I got a great deal). That album was the first Bad Books album (a project Manchester Orchestra did with Kevin Devine). At the time I was unfamiliar with either Kevin Devine or Manchester Orchestra, but both artists have really stuck with me since. A year later, Manchester Orchestra released Simple Math (2011), Cope (2013) and Hope (2014). As with each of those, A Black Mile to the Surface is a wonderful straight-through listen. The song flow beautifully and seamlessly, the vocals sore and then become soft and then sore again, there’s energy and angst and gentleness. This one certainly lives up to Manchester Orchestra’s already high standard.

9. U2 – Songs of Experience
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There were a lot of surprises this year. This record almost annoyed me… because I had my top 10 all sorted, and then it came along late in the year to throw things into question. Even more than that, I sort of thought I’d never be surprised by a U2 album again. It’s not that they’ve been bad in recent years, but they’ve been somewhat predictable. Underachieving maybe. You’d listen to new U2, and think “yep, that’s U2.” There’s something here though. There’s more energy than they’ve had in the last few records. There are curveballs. It’s still U2, but it’s also new and different. They may be late in their career, but U2 are unmistakably among the greats. This record is something special. I thought I had them figured out, and they threw me for a loop.

8. Making Movies – I Am Another You
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Mixing up some Afro-Latino rhythms and psychedelic rock’n’roll riffs, Making Movies came out of nowhere for me back toward the end of June. It is this sheer energy of all types of percussion topped with huge guitar riffs and they shift from dark and ominous to soft and intimate to light-hearted and fun like it’s nothing. This one has more rough edges than most of the others on this list, but it has undeniable energy and passion. It’s also plenty rewarding on repeated listens. The band, based in Kansas City, consists of two sets of brothers; Enrique and Diego Chi and Juan-Carlos and Andres Chaurand. A big theme for the band is beauty in diversity, and they do it really well. Locura Colectiva, Brave Enough, and Tell Me The Truth are highlights on this one for me.

7. ODESZA – A Moment Apart
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There’s something special about seeing a local band go from formation to headlining festivals in the space of about 5 yrs. Formed in 2012 (a little before graduating from Western Washington University), and this year headlining Bumbershoot back on Labor Day weekend. This release, ODESZA took things to new levels, and it was clear before the album even came out. The guest vocalists are perfect (Naomi Wild on Higher Ground and Ry X on Corners of the Earth in particular), and there’s not a misstep on the whole record.

6. Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, James McAlister – Planetarium
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In many ways, this feels like a Sufjan album. A different host of collaborators, but a Sufjan album. His unmistakable voice and lyrics make it hard to think of it any other way for me. That said, Sufjan has never been one-note or predictable, and this is no exception.  The other 3 are certainly bringing their own touch to this record even though it feels like it fits so perfectly into the Sufjan catalog. Nico Muhly is responsible for most of the composition here. The contemporary classical composer has a huge catalog of arrangements and original compositions. He’s worked with a lot of popular alternative artists in the past such as Bjork, Grizzly Bear, Jonsi, and The National. This, of course, leads me to Bryce Dessner (The National). Bryce’s guitar work here is beautiful. It’s minimal for the most part, but it adds the perfect touches to Muhly’s compositions. James McAlister is the longtime drummer for Sufjan Stevens, and therefore very good at adapting to many styles of music. His ability on this album is clear. Best tracks for me are Moon, Neptune, Venus and Mercury.

5. Songhoy Blues – Resistance
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In 2012, northern Mali was taken over by a jihadist groups that banned music, alcohol, cigarettes as influences of western culture. Garba Toure, a guitarist from the north was forced to leave, and he moved to the nation’s capitol, Bamako. There, along with Aliou Toure and Oumar Toure (all unrelated from each other), they formed Songhoy Blues. The men were Songhoy (or Songhai) people that were among those targeted under the new regime. Music in Exile (2015) was a revelation that combined traditional Tuareg and Songhoy styles with modern influences. Now, with Resistance, they have continued their rise. Excellent guest appearances from Iggy Pop and Elf Kid make for some great collaborations with artists who have styles very different from their own. The modern Desert Blues sound has revived my love of the guitar in the last couple years, and Songhoy Blues is a big part of that.

4. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Soul of a Woman
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Sharon Jones was a beautiful person, and she never quit giving. During her final year of her life, while battling cancer, she recorded this amazing record. It was released on November 17th; exactly 1 year after her passing. One can’t help but admire the enormous strength of will that it must take continue creating with energy through the physical and emotional obstacles she had to overcome . This is the result. An absolutely beautiful record full of energy and emotion. Tracks like Searching For a New Day , Sail On and These Tears (No Longer For You) are Sharon & the Dap Kings at their best. The record ends perfectly with Call On God. Thank you Sharon, and thank you Dap Kings for one last record.

3. P.O.S. – Chill, Dummy
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A few weeks ago, I was asked by Roberto of Riffs & Rhymes to write a review of an album that hadn’t gotten much attention or had flown beneath the radar. He featured it in a series of posts each from different writers, and I recommend checking them all out. I chose to write about Chill, Dummy. You can read it here!. I’ll call myself a late-comer to the story here, but P.O.S. returns after a frustrating 5 year spell with a cancelled tour due to health troubles (and a kidney transplant in 2014). Chill, Dummy is as strong a comeback as you could ask for. In addition, his tour this year was bombastic enough to make up for the cancelled one after his previous effort, We Don’t Even Live Here. He’s stronger than ever here, trying new things, opening himself up to new styles and influences, and still retaining all the strengths that make him unique. Essential tracks on this one are Wearing a Bear, Faded, Thieves/Kings, Infinite Scroll,  and Sleepdrone/Superposition.
Additionally, somewhere amid his relentless tour schedule, he managed to write and record with some of his fellow Doomtree members and release the new Shredders release, Dangerous Jumps. In January, P.O.S., Sims, Paper Tiger, and Lazerbeak will be touring in support of that release.

2. Ibeyi – Ash
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Twin sisters Lisa-Kainde and Naomi Diaz released this absolutely haunting and entrancing album at the end of September, and there was a period in October when I could barely bring myself to listen to anything else. They fuse elements of electro, soul, R&B, and Afro-Cuban music, and come out with something totally their own. The real binding elements are their beautiful vocal work, and the prominent percussion. The guest appearances are perfect on this record, but perhaps none more than Kamasi Washington’s work on Deathless. The song is certainly one of my favorites this year, and throws the listener vividly into the experience of Lisa-Kainde when she was treated roughly by French police at age 16 who assumed by her race that she was dealing drugs. There are no weak songs on this album. It’s hard to even pick highlights, but I’ll offer a few: Deathless, I Wanna Be Like You, No Man Is Big Enough For My Arms, and When Will I Learn.

1. Sinkane – Life & Livin’ It
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How a record with these poppy, infectious hooks doesn’t make it into the charts is among the clearest evidence that the music industry is totally run by marketers and not music-lovers. Begun as the solo work of Ahmed Gallab (Born in London to Sudanese parents, who moved to the US when Ahmed was 5), Life & Livin’ It is perhaps the development of Sinkane into a more democratic band. The tour that followed the previous effort, Mean Love, built the project from a solo effort into a band. It’s still very much led by Gallab, whose musical resume would tell you he’s worked with many excellent musicians such as Yeasayer, of Montreal, Eleanor Friedburger, Born Ruffians, David Byrne (Talking Heads), Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz), Dev Hynes (Lightspeed Champion, Blood Orange), and Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip). The stylistic ground covered in this album ranges from Afro-beat to Shoegaze to Jazz to Synth-pop, yet it flows smoothly throughout to create a wonderfully cohesive whole. As with the Ibeyi album, there is no weak link here. It’s a strong album beginning to end.

So those are my picks this year. There are plenty of others I’ve enjoyed this year, and working things down to just these wasn’t easy. That said, I’m really happy with this list. It reflects my listening for the year very well. Feel free to share your own picks in the comments. Next edition will include some looks back on 2017, and some looks forward to 2018.

-Josh

Tracklist:
ODESZA – Line of Sight
U2 – Get Out of Your Own Way
Lo Tom – Covered Wagon
Shredders – Cult 45
Open Mike Eagle – Daydreaming in the Projects
Akala – Chapter 4
Sampha – (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano
Manchester Orchestra – The Alien
Filthy Friends – Faded Afternoon
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears – Lips of a Loser
Mighty Mo Rodgers & Baba Sissoko – Blues Went to Africa
Songhoy Blues – Bamako
Algiers – Cry of the Martyrs
Thievery Corporation – Strike the Root
Sinkane – Fire
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Rumors
Nadia Reid – Right On Time
Sera Cahoone – Taken Its Toll
Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly & James McAlister – Venus
Paper Tiger – Digging In Fire
Ibeyi – No Man Is Big Enough For My Arms
Tinariwen – Nannuflay
Making Movies – Spinning Out
P.O.S. – Sleepdrone/Superposition
Gord Downie – Introduce Yerself

The Fortnightly Playlist, December 3rd, 2017

This week I was caught off guard by the new U2 album. It has been a long time since I can honestly say that. This isn’t to say U2 hasn’t been good, but to say that they’ve not exactly been a band to throw curveballs in recent years. It just seems like you know what to expect with a U2 album, and they deliver exactly that. Songs of Experience is still very much a U2 record, but there’s something different about this one. The signature U2 sound is there, but they have a stronger, or more emphasized, groove to this record. It works, and I think they’ve piqued my interest more with this album than anything since Achtung Baby (1991).

Also in this edition are several local Seattle artists. Stereo Embers and Amy Denio both had new releases in the last couple weeks that are well worth checking out. I want to highlight Anacortes-based Karl Blau this time. Karl has quietly built up an impressively diverse catalog of music over the last 15 yrs or so, and his new release, Out Her Space, occupies a very different place stylistically than last year’s Introducing Karl Blau. Blau really has a good understanding of his own talents, and how to turn them toward very different goals. He seems to always meet a high standard.

Other high points for me this edition are Sufjan Stevens, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kweku Collins and Amy Denio, as well as more from the previously featured releases from Shredders and Ibeyi.

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Tracklist:
Ibeyi – I Carried This For Years
U2 – Lights of Home
Stereo Embers – It
Sufjan Stevens – The Greatest Gift
The Rural Alberta Advantage – Selfish Dreams
Karl Blau – Poor the War Away
Pierre Kwenders – Woods of Solitude
Shredders – Fly As I Dare
Charlotte Gainsbourg – Deadly Valentine
Lusine – The Lift
Amy Denio – L’Abbraccione
Django Django – In Your Beat
Kweku Collins – Lucky Ones
Saintseneca – Moon Barks at the Dog
Field Music – Count It Up
U2 – The Blackout
Curtis Harding – Till The End
Shredders – Heater Season (featuring Mike Mictlan)

The Fortnightly Playlist, November 19th, 2017

Some huge albums to cover this edition from Ibeyi, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Mavis Staples, Samantha Fish, Kamasi Washington and Alex Lahey. Also, we’ve got some great new singles from Drive-By Truckers, Neil Young, and The Breeders.

I’d been tentatively constructing my top 10 albums for the year, but a few late albums have really shaken it all up. One that absolutely captured me in the last couple weeks is Ash by Ibeyi. The duo comprised of twin sisters Lisa-Kainde & Naomi Diaz created something truly special here. I could hardly listen to anything else for several days. The musically sparse sound lends itself well to the intimacy of the album, the well articulated themes of social justice, and a few perfect guest appearances (in particular, Kamasi Washington on Deathless) make this an album worth listening straight through repeatedly. It has a lot to offer with repeated listening, and I see it being an album that will stick with me over time.

A lot of people seem to be noting that there are a lot more artists being overtly political in the past couple years. I would argue that music and art has always had political aspects. That said, in our current political climate, some artists respond with thoughtful and cutting critiques, and some respond with half-baked, angry, namecalling. No one does politics in music like Drive-By Truckers, and they are in fine form on their newest single, The Perilous Night. For those who have been familiar with the Truckers for a while, their views have always been a part of their music. However, it really came to the forefront of their music in last year’s American Band. This new single continues in that vein, and it does so very well.

Sharon Jones was someone who carried herself with the utmost grace and strength through her battle with cancer. Last year’s documentary, Miss Sharon Jones, told her story of struggling through cancer treatment while still keeping on recording and performing. I had the privelege of seeing her perform during that time (Every now and then, I go back and watch the video from that show). Now, on the one year anniversary of her passing, we get one final album from Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings: Soul of a Woman. It is everything that any fan could ask from a Sharon Jones album. Her voice sounds as beautiful as ever, and the record exudes all the energy and soul and life that we’ve come to expect. There’s nothing missing from it. It is the perfect Sharon Jones record. For more on the record, this is a good review.

As mentioned, I’ve been considering my favorite albums of the year. The last Fortnightly Playlist of the year will be my top 10. There’s still a lot of shifting positions there, and quite a few more than 10 I’m considering. I’d love to hear from you on your favorites this year as well.

Until next time,

Josh

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Tracklist:
1. The Breeders – Wait in the Car
2. PINS – Serve the Rich
3. Neil Young – Already Great
4. Ibeyi – When Will I Learn
5. Daniele Luppi, Parquet Courts – Soul & Cigarette
6. Samantha Fish – American Dream
7. Philip Morgan Lewis – Six Foot Tambourine
8. Drive-By Truckers – The Perilous Night
9. Mavis Staples, Jeff Tweedy – Ain’t No Doubt About It
10. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Searching for a New Day
11. Kamasi Washington – Knowledge
12. Bootsy Collins – Come Back Bootsy
13. Teen Daze – On the Edge of a New Age
14. Ibeyi – Away Away
15. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Sail On!
16. Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending
17. Alex Lahey – I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself
18. They Might Be Giants – I Left My Body
19. POLICA, stargaze – How Is This Happening

 

The Fortnightly Playlist, November 5th, 2017

Plenty to cover again as usual with new singles from Mavis Staples, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Dessa, Tune-Yards, and Levee Walkers, and new full-length albums from Manchester Orchestra, Noah Gundersen, Shredders, Stars, Margo Price, Brian Wright, Iron & Wine, and EPs from Billy Bragg and Langhorne Slim.

Listen to the playlist here on spotify.

Levee Walkers are back again. This time Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Duff McKagan (Guns’n’Roses), and Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees) have collaborated with Seattle Singer-songwriter Ayron Jones. This is now the third vocalist the supergroup has worked with, and each one has brought something very different to the table. It seemed appropriate pair it with a song from Ayron’s album from June, Audio Paint Job. The band seems happy to swing the spotlight on a younger artist that has impressed them recently. Duff McKagan said recently of him, “Ayron is such a special and bad-ass new Seattle artist. I went to a show of his last year in Seattle, and it was one of those that just simply made me realize how glad I am that I chose music as a path.” I’ve enjoyed the Levee Walkers a lot so far, and their choices of different vocalists to work with has led me to some other great musicians. Last year’s single with Raquel Sofia was excellent as well.

The new Shredders release is one I’ve been excited for, and it didn’t let me down. Sims, P.O.S., Lazerbeak, and Paper Tiger of Doomtree have created a record that is a more stripped down and straightforward rap album than their previous records with the full Doomtree collective. Included this edition is a trio of Doomtree releases. Shredders, Style Boys, features fellow Doomtree member Mike Mictlan, then there’s Singer States from Paper Tiger’s solo release from earlier this year, and finally, the new Dessa single, Good Grief. There’s been a lot out this year from the Minneapolis collective. P.O.S.’s solo record from earlier this year is still one of my personal favorites.

Until next time,

Josh

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Tracklist:
1. Manchester Orchestra – The Maze
2. Bill Bragg – The Sleep of Reason
3. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – On Script
4. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Call on God
5. Mavis Staples – Little Bit
6. Ayron Jones – West Coast Feeling
7. Levee Walkers & Ayron Jones – All Things Fade Away
8. Open Mike Eagle – Legendary Iron Hood
9. Shredders & Mike Mictlan – Style Boys
10. Paper Tiger – Singer States
11. Dessa – Good Grief
12. Stars – Hope Avenue
13. Tune-Yards – Look at Your Hands
14. Saintseneca – Book of the Dead on Sale
15. False Advertising – Hey You
16. Julien Baker – Shadowboxing
17. Langhorne Slim – Life is Confusing
18. Margo Price – Pay Gap
19. Brian Wright – Goldmine
20. Bahamas – No Wrong
21. Tyminski – Southern Gothic
22. JD McPherson – Lucky Penny
23. Noah Gundersen – Fear & Loathing
24. Iron & Wine – Claim Your Ghost

The Fortnightly Playlist, October 22nd, 2017

This edition’s got a lively mix. New Polyrhythmics, The True Loves, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Beck, Robert Plant, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Stag make this a really fun listen. Don’t worry though. I’ve still included some good, dark, moody songs here too. Because art.

Listen on Spotify Here

Earlier this week, I was doing dishes. I had headphones on because music always makes tasks like this better. About 5-10 minutes later, I realized my wife was laughing at me because I was dancing while doing dishes. I had just discovered an excellent album out last month called Griot Blues. American blues legend, Mighty Mo Rodgers, and legendary Malian multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Baba Sissoko, have collaborated on a truly great work here. I listened to the entire thing three times that evening. The song I included is the one I was caught dancing along with that evening, Mali to Mississippi.

The biggest thing in music this week for me was the passing of Gord Downie. I know that, since this blog began a year ago, there have been plenty of very prominent musicians to pass. Sometimes I haven’t said much about them. I’ve continued focusing on the new music. Bands start releasing singles in tribute, and I feature those. I sometimes make mention of it. This time it is different for me. Gord Downie was a truly special songwriter and lyricist. I was devastated when the news came a year and a half ago that Gord had an inoperable brain tumor; that the upcoming album and tour was going to be a farewell. Fans of The Tragically Hip will often bring up their classic hits, but to me the most complete records are their final two: Now For Plan A and Man, Machine, Poem. For some insight on Now For Plan A and Gord Downie in general, this interview is particularly good. Man, Machine, Poem was my favorite album of 2016. Gord still managed, after the tour, to release another solo record, Secret Path. Even at this point, Gord focused himself on activism and social justice. The record told the story of a young boy from the Marten Falls First Nation that died trying to escape an Indian Residential school in the ’60’s, and the proceeds went to the University of Manitoba’s National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation project. I decided to included tracks from both Secret Path and Man, Machine, Poem this edition. Gord Downie will always be one of the greatest lyricists to pick up a pen, and I’m so thankful that he also picked up a microphone and shared it all with us.

Until next time,

Josh

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Tracklist:
1. The True Loves – The Dirty
2. Polyrhythmics – Marshmallow Man
3. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Matter of Time
4. Mighty Mo Rodgers & Baba Sissoko – Mali to Mississippi
5. Tamikrest – War Toyed
6. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Little Thing Gone Wild
7. Stag – Come On
8. Josephine Oniyama – ‘Til You
9. Cut Copy – No Fixed Destination
10. Sharon Van Etten – I Wish I Knew
11. Rio Mira – Agua
12. Robert Plant – Carry Fire
13. Primus – The Scheme
14. Beck – Colors
15. Superchunk – Break the Glass
16. Ghostpoet – Trouble + Me
17. BadBadNotGood – I Don’t Know
18. Kyle Craft – Distant Fingers
19. Gord Downie – The Only Place to Be
20. Gord Downie – Here, Here, and Here
21. The Tragically Hip – In a World Possessed by the Human Mind
22. The Tragically Hip – What Blue

The Fortnightly Playlist, October 8th, 2017

A bit on the late side this edition, but here we are another 2 weeks has zipped on by and left us with a whole new batch of music. New Guided by Voices, Black Pistol Fire, Jordan Klassen, and Pinkshinyultrablast.

Listen on Spotify

One of the biggest new albums out this week is Dhani Harrison’s new record, IN///PARALLEL. I have to say I’m really liking this record, and there is a lot there to dig into. It covers a lot of ground stylistically and never loses my interest throughout. It’s a deep listen, and I’m looking forward to giving it a few more listens.

Also included here is Almost Like Praying. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s project to raise funds for Puerto Rico relief features a tons of artists, and, of course, all proceeds go to the hurricane relief effort.

Others I’m particularly excited about are the new Pinkshinyultrablast, my new discovery of the week is Andrew Hung, and there’s some excitement building up around the new singles from Kyle Craft.

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Tracklist
1. Find Your Saint – Pinkshinyultrablast

2. Until the Light – LIGHTS

3. Every Time The Sun Comes Up – Kyle Craft

4. Boy W – Guided By Voices

5. Continental Breakfast – Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

6. Shadow – Andrew Hung

7. Showboat – Josh Ritter

8. Hard to Please – Jordan Klassen

9. Discriminason – Elida Almeida

10. Mean Demeanor – Run the Jewels

11. Why Would I? – Otis Reed

12. All About Waiting – Dhani Harrison

13. Black Rainbows – Cut Copy

14. Keep Your Head High – Jafaris

15. The Spaniards – William Patrick Corgan

16. Undying Light – Tomo Nakayama

17. Weaponized – Wolf Parade

18. Body Chamber – Versing

19. Hearts of Habit – Black Pistol Fire

20. Safe – Shook Twins

21. Almost Like Praying – Lin Manuel Miranda & Artists for Puerto Rico

 

The Fortnightly Playlist, September 24th, 2017

There’s so much new music to go through once again. We’ve got a fantastic collaboration from Kronos Quartet and Trio Da Kali, as well as new records from Matt Cameron (Skin Yard, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam), Rostam (Vampire Weekend), and Hiss Golden Messenger.

Give it a listen here!

There’s been a lot of buzz around the new Foo Fighters record. Particularly, the collaboration of Dave Grohl and Greg Kurstin on the production side has generated a lot of attention. What does Concrete and Gold sound like? Well, like the Foo Fighters, but with a different producer. When a band as big as the Foos does something to change it up there will always be some division among fans as to how it is received. In this instance, the Foo Fighters have positioned themselves as one of the most prominent rock bands in the last 20+ years. They’ve managed time and again to strike a balance between hard, modern rock, grittiness and mainstream pop appeal. This record takes a mellower tone overall. It is more atmospheric. They are covering ground they haven’t before, and they are leaving behind some of their familiar territory. It may be what is expected with Kurstin turning the knobs, and guiding the sound. Kurstin has been behind some of the biggest cultural touchstones of the past several years. You’ve heard his work whether you realize it or not. Most prominent would be Adele’s Hello and Beck’s Dreams. Some fans will like that, and some won’t. This record simply takes a different tone than they have in the past. It’s hard to say how fans will look at this record 10 yrs from now. It’s good, but it’s different.

In the last few years, I have gotten much more into hip hop than I used to be. I’ve come across some great artists that are challenging both lyrically and musically. This time I’m highlighting Open Mike Eagle, and his new record Brick Body Kids Still Daydream. What I love about good hip hop is the that it draws on so much other material. Sometimes it does this very obviously. It’s a shout out, and it directs your attention to another artist. Other times it is more low-key, subtle and intimate. This record draws on a lot of jazz music. Open Mike does this in a lot of ways. One of the more subtle ways that I love to hear is his working in jazz scales in his vocal lines. Rap is often about the rhythm and cadence of the lyrics, to layer melodic scales on top of that is really difficult and this record does it so well.

Personal favorites in this list are the Kronos Quartet & Trio Da Kali cover of Mahalia Jackson’s God Shall Wipe All Tears Away, Hiss Golden Messenger, Wolf Parade and Morrissey.

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Tracklist:
1. Wolf Parade – You’re Dreaming
2. Morrissey – Spent the Day In Bed
3. Bully – Running
4. Hiss Golden Messenger – Jenny of the Roses
5. The National – Empire Line
6. Rostam – Never Going To Catch Me
7. Open Mike Eagle – Hymnal
8. Vel the Wonder – Pursuit of…
9. Sotomayor – Tierra Viva
10. Arcade Fire – Mind Games (John Lennon cover)
11. Teen Daze – Echoes
12. Matt Cameron – Through the Ceiling
13. Prophets of Rage – Living on the 110
14. Da Cruz – Virose
15. Ibeyi – Me Voy
16. Pheobe Bridgers – You Missed My Heart
17. Declan McKenna – Isombard
18. Hiss Golden Messenger – Gulfport You’ve Been On My Mind
19. Trio Da Kali & Kronos Quartet – God Will Wipe All Tears Away (Mahalia Jackson cover)
20. Foo Fighters – Concrete And Gold

The Fortnightly Playlist, September 10th, 2017

Welcome once again to another edition of the Fortnightly Playlist. This fortnight, I’m featuring a lot of new collaborations and new projects from familiar faces. Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth) has a new solo record, and, coming soon, so does Matt Cameron (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam). Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett are collaborating on a new record, and the first single, Over Everything, is excellent. Also in this edition are the new supergroup Filthy Friends, another single from Shredders, and a track from Bomba Estereo’s new record that features Balkan Beat Box.

Listen Here on Spotify

Another collaboration this edition is one of my favorite songs in this collection. Ibeyi’s new single, Deathless, features composer and saxophonist, Kamasi Washington. Ibeyi are twin sisters Lisa-Kainde and Naomi Diaz, whose father was a member of the famous Buena Vista Social Club. Blending Afro-cuban roots and electronic music, they produce something really beautiful and soulful.

One of my personal favorite new discoveries in the last couple weeks has been El Buho. The new EP, Chinampa, strikes that perfect balance between always keeping my interest and having a laid back, relaxing feel. The track I included here, Temporada de Lluvias, exemplefies what I mean. It’s music that you can just get lost in.

The playlist closes with a track from the new LCD Soundsystem album, american dream. What I noticed specifically when I first hear this song was the vocal style. James Murphy often leans toward the Talking Heads influences with his vocals, but here he changes things up and sounds more like Bono than I think I’ve ever heard before.

Let’s talk about this new Filthy Friends project now.  This is the real deal that grew one song at a time. Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks), Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5) and Bill Rieflin (King Crimson) began by playing covers, then a set of Bowie songs, then contributing a song for a compilation, and now here we are being treated to an excellent debut record, Invitation. 

Other noteworthy releases include a couple local, Seattle releases from ODESZA and Tomo Nakayama, as well as a cut from the upcoming Polyrhythmics release.

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Tracklist:
1. Pains of Being Pure at Heart – My Only
2. ODESZA – Show Me
3. Beck – Dear Life
4. Filthy Friends – Windmill
5. Matt Cameron – Time Can’t Wait
6. Kurt Vile & Courtney Barnett – Over Everything
7. Alvvays – In Undertow
8. Ibeyi – Deathless (feat. Kamasi Washington)
9. Bishop Nehru – Introvertz
10. Otis Reed – Growing Pains
11. El Buho – Temporada de Lluvias
12. Daniel Caesar – Best Part (feat. H.E.R.)
13. Lee Ranaldo – Thrown Over the Wall
14. St. Vincent – Los Ageless
15. Shredders – Flipping Cars
16. Mega Ran – Form School of Feng Shui
17. Vel the Wonder – Woman in the Crowd
18. Bomba Estereo – Quimica (Dance With Me) (feat. Balkan Beat Box)
19. Polyrhythmics – Spider Wolf
20. Ela Minus – Ceremony
21. Daughter – Hope
22. Tomo Nakayama – Fourth of Julivar’s
23. Lina Tullgren – Get Lost
24. Noah Gundersen – The Sound
25. LADAMA – Compared to What
26. Onra – Loyalty
27. LCD Soundsystem – how do you sleep?