Author: Kelefa Sanneh Title: Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres Narrator: Kelefa Sanneh Publication Info: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group Summary/Review:
Kelefa Sanneh, a former music critic for the New York Times, and writer for the New Yorker, revisists the history of popular music from the 1970s to today in a series of essays focusing on genres. These genres include the venerable traditions of Rock, R&B, and Country as well as the upstarts Punk, Hip-Hop, and Dance. The final essay focuses on the amorphous genre of Pop.
Sanneh is a fan of all these types of music so he brings in his personal experience when discussing them. I find that appropriate since music is such a personal thing. Sanneh does a great job at summarizing the history and the struggles of artists within these genres to remain true to their style. He also notes that over the past 50 years that each of these genres is converging to create a new “pop” music even at a time when streaming music platforms should allow greater splits.
This was a fun an informative book for a music fan.
Album: Get Up Sequences Part One Artist: The Go! Team Release Date: July 2, 2021 Label: Memphis Industries Favorite Tracks:
“Let the Seasons Work”
“Tame the Great Plains”
“World Remember Me Now”
Thoughts: The Go! Team haven’t been as good as they used to be for a while. Or perhaps, the remarkable sameness of their music is an indication that they are as good as they used to be, they just haven’t changed while the listeners have. Anyhow, The Go! Team is always fun to listen to as they cobble together from various sources, the weirder the better. I think I like this album better overall than its predecessor SEMICIRCLE. Rating: ***
Title: The Forty-Year-Old Version Release Date: October 9, 2020 Director: Radha Blank Production Company: New Slate Ventures | Hillman Grad Productions | Endeavor Content Summary/Review:
Radha (Rahda Blank) is a playwright nearing her 40th birthday who is dealing with the lack of success after winning a “30 Under 30” award early in her career and has taken to teaching at high school. Her agent and childhood friend Archie (Peter Kim) helps her get producer J. Whitman (Reed Birney) to support her play about a Black couple dealing with gentrification in Harlem, but insists that she emphasize what Radha calls “poverty porn” and add a white character. Radha feels her vision for the play escaping her and decides to make her voice heard by recording hip hop tracks with the laconic D (Oswin Benjamin) who runs a studio out of his Brooklyn apartment. Radha and D also form a romantic relationship, which is all fair since men who write/direct/star in their own films have a tradition of giving themselves younger love interests.
The Forty-Year-Old Version is very funny and also cringe-inducing with its characters following their worst instincts. Radha Blank does a great job playing a character that can be very unsympathetic but still very likable. I also like Radha’s chemistry with Archie and believe that they could’ve been friends with childhood. The movie reminds me a bit of Frances Ha, as they both black & white movies in New York about artists having to deal with failed expectations of greatness and having to adapt to growing older. But this is a funny and unique movie and I recommend checking it out.
Album: The Beginning, the Medium, the End and the Infinite Artist: IKOQWE Release Date: March 5, 2021 Label: Crammed Discs Favorite Tracks:
“The Medium (O Meio)”
“The End (Kamicasio)”
IKOQWE are a pair of fictional characters who, coming from a distant time and space, are confronted with today’s world. Their impressions are conveyed over the course of an exciting album which blends electronic music, hip hop and the sounds of ancestral instruments from Angola.
If you read this description of IKOQWE’s Bandcamp site and aren’t interested in what they sound like, I don’t know what to tell you. The description of the duo’s debut album goes on to say:
The album contains 11 tracks, and includes drum machines, vocals in Angolan slang, Umbundu, Portuguese & English, discussions about neocolonialism, iniquities & falsified history, radio sounds, utopian solutions, and much more.
I can also tell you that there are some sick beats on this album. It’s creative and vibrant, and I’m sure I’ll be grooving to it for some time to come.
Hip artist and producer Madlib collaborates with electronic music artists Four Tet on this collection that draws on both of their loves for music and record collecting. The music samples from a catalog of soul and R&B, Jazz, Latin, folk, and reggae to create a tribute to ancestral music and something new at the same time.
Album: Spilligion Artist: Spillage Village Release Date: September 25, 2020 Label: Dreamville | Interscope | SinceThe80s Favorite Tracks:
End of Daze
Spillage Village is a hip hop musical collective based in Atlanta, Georgia. I am no expert on hip hop, but I find these days that when I really like something it comes from the Atlanta and Southern scene. The album was born of the COVID-19 lockdown with members of Spillage Village living at the studio as a safe place. Naturally, the album reflects the concerns of the time as greater inequality and social justice concerns. But is is also an album that is full of hope and joy. In addition to rap, the album reflects a wide variety of musical styles including soul, funk, and gospel. It serves as a perfect time capsule and a message of hope from this cursed year.