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)

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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

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