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.

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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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The Fortnightly Playlist, February 25th, 2018

There are some highly anticipated releases in this edition as well as some pleasant surprises that I’ve stumbled upon. Dessa and Spanglish Fly both have new releases that I’ve been eagerly waiting on. New discoveries for me include HOLY and Dizzy Fae.

Dessa’s new album, Chime, is my most anticipated release thus far in 2018. The buzz around this has been gathering particularly since the 2nd single, Fire Drills, dropped in December. The 3 singles that we’d heard beforehand (Good Grief, Fire Drills, and 5 Out Of 6) are certainly among the high points in this record for me. That said, Dessa certainly didn’t show too much of her hand before playing. Velodrome is a real standout for me, but the record is definitely still most rewarding if you have the chance to listen start-to-finish. This is the latest out from the Minneapolis collective, Doomtree, and it seems that with each release the entire group gets better. So while it has been 5 yrs since Dessa’s last solo full-length, Parts of Speech, one can see the considerable experience gained since then. Chime is her best to date.

A couple months back I heard Spanglish Fly’s cover of You Know I’m No Good by Amy Winehouse. It caught my attention immediately as the song was one of the first that my own band had played together when we were just starting to practice. Spanglish Fly’s version was decidedly different though. The Boogaloo revivalists brought their own energy and firey Latin style to the song. The group takes up a fairly unique space in the current musical landscape taking the traditional New York Boogaloo blend of Afro-cuban and Soul, but also bringing in Jazz, Flamenco, Doo-wop, Hip-Hop, and even Arabic. The band is a true melting pot of music and culture, and their new record, Ay Que Boogaloo! is a perfect reflection of band’s own varied cultural roots.

Puerto Rican rapper, Residente tried a new experiment with his new record that brought in some new and unexpected collaborations. He took a genetic test. His discoveries about his own roots inspired him to find artists from those regions to collaborate on the record. One of the attention-grabbers for me was a song I included this edition featuring one of my favorite desert-blues guitarists, Bombino.

Other new albums from HOLY, Ezra Furman, Loma, Brandi Carlile, and Superchunk feature this edition as well as new singles from King Tuff, Beach House, and Dr. Dog. Finally, I would be remiss if I neglected the Black Panther soundtrack. I’ve not mentioned it much at all, but I think that album (along with the movie itself) is going to be viewed as a cultural landmark for many years to come.

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Tracklist:
The Leers – I Can’t Cope
Dizzy Fae – Canyon
Kendrick Lamar, SZA – All the Stars
Dessa – Say When
Kehlani – Again
Spanglish Fly – You Know I’m No Good/Chica Mala Mambo
Residente feat. Bombino – La Sombra
King Tuff – Psycho Star
Ezra Furman – No Place
Brandi Carlile – Every Time I Hear That Song
I’m With Her – Ryland (Under the Apple Tree)
Tom Forest – Superhuman
Dr Dog – Go Out Fighting
Hollow Twin – The Valley
Car Seat Headrest – Sober to Death
Brandi Carlile – The Joke
Ezra Furman – God Lifts Up the Lowly
HOLY – Wish 3
Dessa – Velodrome
Beach House – Lemon Glow
Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Anderson.Paak, James Blake – Bloody Waters
Busta Rhymes – Get It
A Perfect Circle – TalkTalk
Loma – Relay Runner
Courtney Barnett – Nameless, Faceless
Superchunk – Erasure

Just because I like it Volume II: Desert Blues

I recently read The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that some artists that I’ve featured on The Fortnightly Playlist made some appearances in the book, and some of the musicians were even interviewed for it. The story is of archivist Abdel Kader Haidara. First his journeys to gather ancient manuscripts from around the Niger River, then his efforts to construct libraries and museums to house the beautiful ancient texts, then, as jihadi extremists stormed in from the North, there was the desperate smuggling missions to save the priceless historical texts to safety in Southern Mali. The author describes how, before the invasion by Al Queda and the subsequent war, Mali was going through a stage of massive cultural growth. Reading this book, and seeing some of these artists included, I decided that I would put together this little collection.

Often mentioned by Hammer, is a figure of massive influence for modern music in the area: Ali Farka Toure. He pioneered the electric guitar stylings that became signatures of Malian music in the decades since. Ali Farka Toure passed away in 2006, but not before grooming many students to become significant artists as well. It seemed fitting to bookend this collection.

Next is a band that sprang from the upheaval and civil war that took hold of Northern Mali in 2012-13. Some extremist groups were particularly threatening to musicians, and claimed that innovation itself was a form of heresy. Musicians caught playing in cities held by groups like Ansar Dine could have their hands chopped off. Songhoy Blues formed in Bamako, by musicians who had fled from the North. Their music was embraced by other displaced Songhoy and Tuareg people, and has garnered international acclaim as well.

Hailing from Niger, Bombino has worked with some modern blues-rock and indie musicians from North America on his more recent albums. Nomad was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, and 2016’s Azel was produced by David Longstreth of The Dirty Projectors. It is artists like Bombino that reinvigorated my love for the guitar.

Tinariwen is a very famous group in Mali. The band’s roots are intertwined with an earlier conflict in the country’s history. The revolt in 1990 saw future members of the band participating as rebels fighting for Tuareg independence. After the peace agreement in January of 1991, the band left the military and devoted themselves to music. They first garnered international attention playing The Festival in the Desert, and later headlined the festival multiple times.  They played the festival in 2012 just a matter of days before war broke out. In 2013, Tinariwen were part of a tour in North America called The Festival au Desert – Caravan For Peace.

The Tuareg push for autonomy has had many different incarnations. The nomadic Tuaregs find their home throughout the Saharan region of Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Algeria. During riots in 2006, the members of Tamikrest decided not to take up arms, but instead to call attention to the Tuareg cause through music rather than weapons. They mix their traditional music with many modern styles in a similar vein to Tinariwen.

Khaira Arby is a living legend in Mali. Through her music she has made herself an advocate for women, and she has opened the door for many artistic women to follow in her footsteps. In a region that has seen invasion by the strictest and most brutal extremism, her voice could not be more important. Powerful vocals, a tight electric-guitar-driven groove, and a voice of social justice… that’s Khaira Arby.

Rokia Traore traveled widely in her youth owing to her father being a Malian diplomat. Rokia started perfoming publicly as a student in Bamako, and her influences from other parts of the world get blended in with traditional Malian styles. It is often noted that she incorporated vocal harmonies that are rarely used in other Malian music.

Mariem Hassan was born in what is today known as Western Sahara. The Sahrawi singer was often seen as an advocate for her people, but also was someone who had her own health issues to contend with. When her first solo album was being made, she was fighting breast cancer. Additionally, Baba Salema, the producer and lead guitarist on the record died from leukemia before the record was released. Mariem would beat breast cancer, but was lost to bone cancer in 2015.

Terakaft are fronted by a former member of Tinariwen and his two nephews. They were formed amid the tumult of the jihadi invasion of 2012. As with Songhoy Blues, members fled the region, and their music is heavily influenced by the upheaval that they and their people have suffered through.

Following in the footsteps of his grammy-winning father, Vieux Farka Toure took up the guitar and attended Institut National des Arts in Bamako. His debut album was released in 2007, and featured guest spots by his father who had passed away the year before. Vieux has developed his fingerstyle guitar techniques, and at times melded them with other styles as well.

Finally, we close with a beautiful duet. The song Ai Du is from a collection of duets called Talking Timbuktu by Ali Farka Toure and one of my favorite American musicians of all time… Ry Cooder. Cooder and Toure made an amazing pairing that bridged American and African guitar styles so perfectly. The entire record is well worth the time.

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Next week is back to The Fortnightly Playlist. Enjoy!

Josh

 

The Fortnightly Playlist, February 11th, 2018

Things are picking up in 2018 releases now, and we’ve got a very full list of great new music this edition. New singles from PJ Harvey, Dessa, Loma, Jack White, and The Moondoggies, and new full length records from The Oh Hellos, Field Music, HC McEntire, Hookworms, and Kyle Craft have given me a lot of music to go through this time in order to select the music for this one.

Dagadana’s Meridian 68 has actually been out for some time, but they recently released in in several more countries following their signing onto a new label in Germany. I felt the need to share it again after I found myself listening to it on repeat about a week and a half ago. Dagadana blend their Ukrainian and Polish folk roots with modern styles, and on Meridian 68 they work with some musicians from China and Mongolia to bring in folk style from across all of Asia. The result is an incredibly beautiful blend of folk traditions along with modern jazz and electronica. Yes, it’s original release date was 2 years ago, but I make the rules and I get to break them. I strongly recommend this one.

As I’ve already mentioned on this blog, Dessa’s new album, Chime, is the one I’m most excited for in 2018. She released a new single this past week. From the material released so far, this seems like a more aggressive and edgy side of Dessa. It’s something I’d expect more of her work alongside fellow Doomtree members like P.O.S., but it is definitely a side of her that I’m happy to see more of. Chime is out February 23rd, and is available for pre-order at Doomtree’s website.

Field Music, Loma and Wye Oak are some of my other favorites this time around. I have to question whether next edition will include Chime in its entirety, but I can’t let myself plan too far ahead.

Enjoy!

Josh

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PJ Harvey – An Acre of Land
Calexico – Voices in the Field
Glen Hansard – Wheels on Fire
Jack White – Corporation
MGMT – Little Dark Age
Dagadana – I Shall Never Fear At All
Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs
Jen Cloher – Strong Woman
Hookworms – Static Resistance
The Oh Hellos – Grow
First Aid Kit – Rebel Heart
Calexico – Eyes Wide Awake
Kyle Craft – Bridge City Rose
HC McEntire – A Lamb, A Dove
The Moondoggies – Easy Coming
Field Music – Time In Joy
Maryam Saleh; Maurice Louca; Tamer Abu Ghazaleh – Ekaa Maksour
Dessa – 5 out of 6
The Low Anthem – Give My Body Back
Lord Huron – Ancient Names (Part I)
Lord Huron – Ancient Names (Part II)
Loma – Joy
Porches – Goodbye
Dagadana – In That Orchad

The Fortnightly Playlist, January 28th, 2018

We’re getting into more of 2018’s music now as we push toward the end of January. Some attention-grabbers are big singles from The Decemberists, David Byrne (The Talking Heads), Parliament, and Smokey Brights. Also, brand new albums from Calexico, Umphrey’s McGee, Walking Papers, Tune-yards, and Porches.

I really am loving the new single from Smokey Brights; Come to Terms. They had a great album 2 yrs ago, Hot Candy, which first put them on my radar. Come to Terms is the title track from their new 4-song EP, and hopefully it’s a sign that there is another full-length not too far away because this is, in my opinion, the best material from them so far.

Calexico is a band that I just sort of knew until around 2010… when I saw them open for Arcade Fire. It was The Suburbs tour, and Arcade Fire were just exploding into a true mainstream success. Calexico had been a band for twice as long, and had built a solid run of success within the indie world, but this was a little different. On tour with a skyrocketing headliner, the Arizona-based indie band now found themselves playing far bigger venues than ever before, but they managed to focus the energy on stage so well that in my head I remember it being a raucous small room with great sound (it was Key Arena). Calexico’s new record, The Thread That Keeps Us, is my favorite release this month. They’ve got a warmth and charm in their storytelling that makes this (and other albums in their catalog) very rewarding. There’s also a lot on offer in terms of musical style. They’ve always woven in Latin styles in their sound, sharp trumpet stabs and flamenco guitars, but they also incorporate country, blues, rock’n’roll, and modern rock. I think I’ll be sharing more from this one in 2 weeks because there is so much here.

Other favorites this edition include Walking Papers, Bette Smith, and Porches. Thanks for listening.

Josh

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Tracklist:
Smokey Brights – Come to Terms
Umphrey’s McGee – The Silent Type
The Breeders – All Nerve
Calexico – Under the Wheels
David Byrne – Everybody’s Coming to My House
Parliament – I’m Gon Make You Sick O’Me
Tune-Yards – Now As Then
Sylvan Esso – Parad(w/m)e
August Green – Pictures
Sun, Moon & Talia – Beautiful Last Word
The Decemberists – Severed
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – King of Bones
Walking Papers – Hard to Look Away
Hot Snakes – Six Wave Hold-Down
Porches – By My Side
Anna Burch – Tea-Soaked Letter
Naked Giants – TV
Calexico – End of the World With You
Cafe Preto, Ceu – Agua, Fogo, Terramar
Bette Smith – Shackles & Chain
Titus Andronicus – Number One (In New York)

Just Because I Like It. Volume 1

With this blog generally going 2 weeks between posts, I sometimes think of doing other things in between. I’ve been toying with the idea for awhile. Also, since I’ve typically focused on newly released music, I’ve thought of maybe writing and curating something that features songs and artists without putting that constraint on myself. I don’t know yet how regular this will be, and I think I’ll just do it without any rules this time. So, just because I like these songs, just because I feel like doing it, just because these are absolute gems (some more hidden than others)… here we go. This list features some of my favorite blues, soul, and hip hop artists and songs.

So, I’ll briefly write track-by-track here.

Ball of Confusion by The Temptations is real tone-setter for this little collection of songs. I love this song. It’s pretty unique among other soul songs of the time, and it’s something of a touchstone for more recent soul artists like Charles Bradley (who we’ll get to later).

One of my favorite days of radio programming (KEXP Seattle), is Martin Luther King Jr Day. The curate an amazing collection of Blues, Soul, Funk, Hip-Hop and Rock every year. This year, I was introduced to gospel-singer, Marion Williams. I was not previously familiar with her, but when I heard Heaven Help Us All I was absolutely sold.

N.A.S.A. was an interesting project back in 2009 that brought in an incredible collection of guests. I don’t know why Spirit of Apollo became a one-off, or if they will one day follow it up. It is a really fun listen though, and features appearances by David Byrne, Karen O, Santigold, M.I.A., Method Man, Chuck D, Tom Waits and George Clinton.

As Chuck D appears on the N.A.S.A. song, I decided to go straight into Public Enemy. Not much to say here… this song holds up so well after nearly 30 yrs.

One of my personal favorite current artists, and someone I have enormous respect for is Akala. I first became aware of Akala through a comedy special by Scottish comedian, Frankie Boyle, called Frankie Boyle’s Election Autopsy 2015. Akala came on to discuss race relations in the UK, and I was impressed with his presentation of history and politics. His music (as well as his other projects), show a real love of learning and growing that I find inspirational. I’ll put a quick disclaimer on this video due to explicit language: Frankie Boyle, Sara Pascoe, Katherine Ryan and Akala discuss race issues in the UK.

Following up Akala’s Mr. Fire In The Booth is the song that he samples heavily from: Sharon Jones & the Dap King’s The Game Gets Old. When it comes to modern soul singers, few can compare to Sharon Jones.

As it was members of the Dap Kings that founded Daptone Records and discovered Charles Bradley, that’s who we go to next. People often draw the comparison to James Brown, and Bradley did indeed work as a James Brown impersonator at times before getting his break. I think Charles Bradley draws from a lot of influences. Thematically, you can draw a lot of connections to the Temptation track at the start of this list.

We close with one of my favorite duet pairs. John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison have a few duets out there, and each one has taken its turn as my favorite song ever. Their voices are so complimentary to each other, and I love hearing them sing together.

-Josh