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.


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.


Next week is back to The Fortnightly Playlist. Enjoy!



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.




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