Futility Closet :: The General Slocum
The grim history of the worst maritime disaster in New York City.
Best of the Left :: Our built environment shapes society and vice versa
The issues of increasing urban density, building social housing, and deprioritizing the automobile in cities are near and dear in my heart. And yet, even Leftists tend to fall into the pro-car/pro-sprawl trap, so it’s good to hear these arguments for a more livable urbanism.
Hub History :: Love is Love: John Adams and Marriage Equality
It seems like yesterday, but 15 years have passed since Massachusetts became the first state to perform legal same-sex marriages. Here’s the history of how that came to be.
Sound Opinions :: De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising
I have a lot of nostalgia for De La Soul’s debut album which came out when I was a nerdy high school student. The Sound Opinions crew explore how the album was created and explain why it’s so hard to find the album today.
Hit Parade :: The Invisible Miracle Sledgehammer Edition
If you turned on the radio in the mid-1980s, you were likely to hear music by members of Genesis (Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, and Mike and the Mechanics) while the band Genesis continued to make hits. Chris Molanphy explains this unusual situation in pop music history.
Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:
Album: Cuz I Love You
Release Date: April 19, 2019
- Cuz I Love You
- Like A Girl
- Exactly How I Feel
Lizzo is one of those artists that excels in making music that fits into multiple genres – pop, hip hop, soul, funk, & R&B – so much so that her music is kind of it’s own Lizzo genre. I was going to compare the music on Cuz I Love You to the work of Prince, and that was before I learned that Lizzo is from Minneapolis (in fact she appeared on the Prince and 3rdeyegirl album Plectrumelectrum). The other obvious comparison is Janelle Monáe, and again there’s a direct connection as the pair performed together at Coachella last week and Lizzo interviewed Monáe for them. magazine. What sets Lizzo apart is her joyful exuberance. A large, black woman gets discriminated at from every angle, but Lizzo has embraced self-love, and much of the theme of this album is sharing the message of empowerment. And she sounds she’s having so much fun while doing it.
Little Simz :: Offence
Cheekface :: Eternity Leave
The Budos Band :: Old Engine Oil
DeeWunn + Leo Justi :: Back it Up, Drop It
The Drums :: Body Chemistry
Yann Tiersen :: Koad
Album: The New Normal
Artist: STL GLD
Release Date: February 1, 2019
Favorite Tracks: Burns, Gon’ Shine, Burns
The Boston hip hop act STL GLD is well-regarded as one of the best groups in the area by local media. Boston isn’t a notable location on the hip hop map compared with other cities, but The New Normal should draw attention to our city. Moe Pope, Christopher Talken, and Jonathan Ulman perform songs that speak to the present moment of the Trump era, and all the political and personal turmoil that entails, but also offering a positive alternative vision. And STL GLD is not shy about getting their message out, including holding a listening party for the album’s premier in the unlikely setting of the Museum of Fine Arts. I admit that I don’t know enough about hip hop to write a thorough review, but I know what I like, and The New Normal, lyrically and musically, is worth listenin to.
Release Date: November 14, 2018
- Tic Boom
- Girl Blunt
- Roll Call
- Hoyt and Schermerhorn
- Iron Mike
Leikeli47 is mysterious, masked figure from Brooklyn who raps about life in her neighborhood and the challenges of Black women in 2018 America. The rhymes are strong and the beats are fine. The music is fun, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t serious. This album is a throwback to old school rap of the 80s while simultaneously forward looking.
Believed :: The Good Guy
This podcast series from Michigan Radio investigates the story of Larry Nassar, the women’s Olympics gymnastic doctor found guilty of sexual abusing his patients for decades. This first episode depicts how Nassar was seen in the gymnastic community as a respected and lovable figure, not appearing as a monster despite performing monstrous acts. There are obvious content warning for rape and trauma for anyone considering listening to this episode.
The Memory Palace :: The Dress in the Closet
This Halloween episode is a ghost story of sorts telling the sad story of Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone and how they were haunted by being guests of Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on the night of his murder.
Hit Parade :: The Oh. My. God. Becky Edition
The Hit Parade visits the charts circa 1991-1992 when hip-hop hits finally reach #1. It was a transitional period for hip-hop between its party song roots and the West Coast gangsta rap that emerged as a hit-churning style later in the 90s. The new styles sampled pop and R&B songs and featured more conscious lyrics. Artists included De La Soul, PM Dawn, Arrested Development, and … Sir Mix-A-Lot. Host Chris Molanphy credits the newfound success of rap on the charts partly to Billboard introducing the new SoundScan system which more accurately tracked record sales and airplay. This was another nostalgic episode for me as I liked a lot of the rap music from this period but never cottoned on to gangsta rap.
Some new albums that don’t exactly contain new content, so I’m reviewing them in bulk.
Artist: St. Vincent
Release Date: October 12, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Slow Disco,” “Los Ageless,”
Thoughts: A release of Masseduction with everything stripped away except Annie Clarke’s voice and a piano, making her sound more like a chanteuse. I think I like this version better, although I didn’t really like the original much at all.
Album: My Way
Artist: Willie Nelson
Release Date: September 14, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Summer Wind,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “One for My Baby (And One More For the Road,” “What is This Thing Called Love?,” and “My Way”
Thoughts: Willie Nelson sings swinging standards in the style of Frank Sinatra. What’s not to like?
Album: Piano and a Microphone 1983
Release Date: September 21, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “17 Days,” “Cold Coffee & Cocaine,” and “Why the Butterflies”
Thoughts: The first posthumous release from Prince’s music vaults is a glimpse of an artist at work. Just Prince tooling around on a piano, working on several songs, and being amazingly talented.
Got a backlog of albums from recent months, so here’s a collection of quick reviews.
Artist: Ólafur Arnalds
Release Date: 24 August 2018
Favorite Tracks: “re:member,” “undir,” and “ekki hugsa”
Thoughts: Piano-based ambient music, reminiscent of Sigur Ros. Very soothing.
Release Date: 24 August 2018
Favorite Tracks: “If You Really Love Nothing” and “The Rover”
Thoughts: I’ve liked Interpol’s previous recordings, and this is an acceptable addition to their oeuvre. But it feels a bit redundant and uninspired
Album: Negro Swan
Artist: Blood Orange
Release Date: August 24, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Charcoal Baby,” “Holy Will,” “Daenham Dream,” and “Out of Your League”
Thoughts: Dev Hynes fourth album recording as Blood Orange is smooooooooooth. The music is chill, but the lyrics examine depression and anxiety through an intersectional lens of political consciousness.
Album: The Now Now
Release Date: June 29, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Humility (feat. George Benson),” “Hollywood,”
Thoughts: Damon Albarn’s second band – a “virtual band” at that – is now a veteran band of 20 years. It features a stripped-down sound with fewer guest artists and I think it benefits from that even as it falls a bit short of Gorillaz best work.
Album: Dirty Computer
Artist: Janelle Monáe
Release Date: April 28, 2018
Favorite Tracks: It would be easier to list my least favorite tracks, but really there are no duds on this album.
It’s hard to believe that this is only Janelle Monáe’s third studio album as she has made such a huge contribution to musical pop culture in the past decade. Monáe’s film work put this album on the back burner, but it was worth the wait. This is the first album where Monáe steps out from behind her Cindi Mayweather character, and thus it is the personal music she’s released. Similarly, stepping out of the metaphors of the Metropolis narrative, Monáe directly addresses political topics of the day while celebrating women, Blackness, sexuality, gender identity and being American (““It’s gonna be my America before it’s all over”).
Monáe picks up the mantle from David Bowie and Prince as the icon of redefining norms for gender identity and sexuality. In fact, Prince worked with Monáe on defining the sound of the music early on and it shows. Make no mistake though, this is Monáe’s album and guest artists from Grimes to Brian Wilson to Zoe Kravitz to Stevie Wonder move fluidly to her beat. This is the first great album of 2018, and the song “Americans” should be the song of the summer.
If you want to read more of my dumb thoughts on Monáe’s earlier body of work, check out my Music Discoveries post. For a more thoughtful career evaluation, read this article by Charles Pulliam-Moore.
Album: Cocoa Sugar
Artist: Young Fathers
Release Date: March 9, 2018
- Fee Fi
- In My View
Critics call the music of the Scottish trio Young Fathers genre-defying, or that Young Fathers are their own genre, and I’ve seen the music of Cocoa Sugar described as art-rap or rap deconstruction. Whatever you call it, Cocoa Sugar is an excellent collection of dense, lo-fi, rock/rap/electronic folk music. Take a listen and discover it for yourself.