The Fortnightly Playlist,October 27th, 2019

This week I’ve happened to run afoul of highly-dedicated fans of both Lady Gaga and Kanye West on Twitter. I just happen to think that some of those big artists are more about hype and money than about art, and some fans take that personally I guess. That said, I don’t think much of Lady Gaga tweeting that “fame is prison” or Kanye spouting ignorant political statements for attention while proudly being off his meds. I think there are plenty of artists that don’t get the attention they deserve. It’s why you will from time to time see a big popstar included here, but only if I think highly of the music. This edition includes new singles from Michael Kiwanuka, Broken Bells, Julien Baker, Sudan Archives, Steve Mason, Wolf Parade, and Steve Gunn, a new collaboration from Sera Cahoone and Tomo Nakayama, and new albums from Neil Young, Joseph Arthur and Son Volt.

She’s been releasing some of my favorite music of the past couple years, so let’s talk Sudan Archives. We’re finally about to get her first full-length album after a pair of fantastic EPs from violinist and vocalist, Brittney Parks. Her Avant-garde violin playing, R&B groove, beautifully layered loops, and subtle yet powerful messaging give us a catchy and accessible sound with plenty of rewards to repeated listening. It’s complex and layered while still sounding sparse and open. I first heard “Wake Up” on the radio, and I found myself listing to her self-titled debut EP on repeat. In her singles and EP’s, every single track has been excellent, and if she can do this in the full album format then this will be among the best of the year without a doubt. If you aren’t familiar, then I highly recommend listening to Sudan Archives (2017), and Sink (2018). The new album, Athena, is out November 1st.

Neil Young has reunited with Crazy Horse after a 7-year break. It’s all got the the feel that you want and expect from a Neil Young & Crazy Horse record, but this is a group that you would never make a something for the feel-good nostalgia of it. Young is still very presen-minded and in-touch in his writing. In the band’s typical raw sound, the record blasts an impassioned environmentalist message directly and unapologetically. Neil and Crazy Horse remain consistent in their desire for a real and raw sound. You won’t find the auto-tune or polished production here. This record sounds like it would if they played it live. There’s a balance here that maybe goes under-appreciated. Keeping that missed note on a solo or that bit where the background vocals were out of sync rather than re-recording another take, but also not making a record that sounds like a jumbled mess. There are fine lines to walk, and some will find that truthful sound a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s for those who appreciate that little crackle of an old record. Personally, I think they balance pretty well on that tightrope as they maybe lean a bit one way or the other at different points.

Some particular favorites of mine this edition include L’Orange & Jeremiah Jae, Sudan Archives, Sera Cahoone & Tomo Nakayama, Son Volt, and Steve Gunn.

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Tracklist:
Michael Kiwanuka – You Ain’t The Problem
Broken Bells – Good Luck
Steve Mason – Like a Ripple
Julien Baker – Tokyo
Lucy Dacus – Dancing in the Dark
Son Volt – Broadsides
Steve Gunn – Be Still Moon
Low Roar – Darkest Hour
Jesca Hoop – Outside of Eden (feat. Kate Stables & Justis)
Buscabullo – Vamona
Renata Flores – Qam Hina
Sara Hebe – Urgente
L’Orange, Jeremiah Jae – Clay Pigeons (feat. billy woods)
Kim Gordon – Paprika Pony
Sufjan Stevens, Timo Andres – IV
Sudan Archives – Glorious
Beck – Uneventful Days
Of Monsters and Men – Vulture, Vulture
Wolf Parade – Against the Day
Joseph Arthur – I’ll Be Around
Sera Cahoone, Tomo Nakayama – Crows
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – She Showed Me Love

The Fortnightly Playlist, October 13th, 2019

What am I most excited about in music right now? Typically, I just pick 2 or 3 to write about a little more, and leave it to the music to speak for itself. There’s a lot here, and there’s a lot to say. New Lemolo, Angel Olsen, Wilco, L’Orange, and Danny Brown albums, and new singles from DJ Shadow, Kele, Songhoy Blues, and HOLY.

I’ll start here. This week, as I was driving, I heard the new single from Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke. Now he released an album under his full name earlier this year already, but now is set to release another under his other moniker, Kele. This single, which I chose as the opener for this edition of the playlist, hit me instantly. It’s a 6-minute epic, but I was ready to listen again as soon as it was done. If this is what is in store for his next release, then I’m all in on it. It’s due out on November 1st, so more to come soon!

As I was building this list, I started thinking on country vocalists. I don’t think there’s a better male country vocalist currently than Jay Farrar of Son Volt, and, as no one who reads this blog will be surprised to hear, I would swear that Brandi Carlile is the best female country vocalist working today. I tend to steer away from making “the best” statements, and try to focus on my own favorites and what I connect with. I don’t think it is possible to really stay objective or even consistent on things like this. On this I’ll stand though, I think Jay Farrar and Brandi Carlile are the best, and this edition I’ve put them right next to each other in the playlist to try and highlight this.

L’Orange. Okay, so I came in late on this North Carolina beatmaker. Last year his album with Solemn Brigham, Marlowe, ranked as my 3rd favorite album of the year, and I’ve been filling myself in a bit on his back catalogue (both solo, and his collaborations with different rappers). He’s built his reputation sampling early jazz records and vintage radio broadcasts, and this new album with Jeremiah Jae is another beauty. L’Orange tends to make his albums as a genre of film. Marlowe was a crime drama that had a dry wit to it, and Complicate Your Life With Violence is like a war movie with apocalyptic tones. So far, the track that has stood out most to me, and which I’ve included here, is “Cool Hand” with multiple samples of Elmore James’ classic “Anna Lee”. I don’t know of another DJ out there sampling the way that L’Orange does, and creating a cinematic story in the same way. Listening to a L’Orange record is like listening to a radio-drama.

Are we halfway through October? What albums are your favorites so far this year?

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Tracklist:
Kele – Between Me and My Maker
Temples – The Howl
Songhoy Blues – Meet Me In The City
Brittany Howard – 13th Century Metal
Great Grandpa – Mono no Aware
HOLY – You shine on me (feat. Boys)
Lemolo – Heart to Hand
Angel Olsen – Impasse
Wilco – One and a Half Stars
Kurt Vile, The Sadies – Baby’s Arms
Son Volt – Holding Your Own
The Highwomen – Wheels of Laredo
Hiss Golden Messenger – Bright Direction (You’re a Dark Star Now)
Just Mustard – Seven
Ex Hex – Rainbow Shiner
Death Valley Girls – Dream Cleaver
Sheer Mag – Blood from a Stone
Mikal Cronin – Shelter
Sault – Living In America
L’Orange, Jeremiah Jae, Chester Watson – Cool Hand
Danny Brown – Change Up
DJ Shadow – Urgent, Important, Please Read (feat. Rockwell, Knuckles, Tef Poe, Daemon)