Monthly Mixtape – December 2019


Better late than never!  Here are some good new songs from the last month of last year.

Madame Gandhi :: Top Knot Turn Up

Madame Gandhi, the former drummer for M.I.A and a runner of the London Marathon, s an electronic music artist and activist based in Los Angeles.

Antibalas :: Fight Am Finish

My favorite Afrobeat band from Brooklyn (with ties to Daptone records) returns!

beabadoobee :: Are You Sure

Beatrice Kristi Laus is a youthful Filipino-British indie singer-songwriter.

MaLLy :: Black Moses

The latest from a Minneapolis rapper. Read more at The Current.


Previous Mixtapes:

Best of the Decade: Favorite Songs of the 2010s


And now, with no explanation and no apology, here are my 100 favorite songs from 2010 to 2019.

Title Artist Album
92nd Street Kris Delmhorst Blood Test
Americans Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer
Archie, Marry Me Alvvays Allvays
BALTIMORE Prince HITNRUN
Because I’m Me The Avalanches Wild Flowers
Beneath the Brine The Family Crest Beneath the Brine
Big Bad Good My bubba Big Bad Good
Black Willow Loma Loma
Bloodbuzz Ohio The National High Violet
Bright Whites Kishi Bashi 151a
Call Me Maybe Carly Rae Jepsen Kiss
Changes Charles Bradley, The Budos Band Changes
Chinatown Girlpool Before the World Was Big
Cold War Janelle Monáe The ArchAndroid
Colonizer tUnE-YaRdS i can feel you creep into my private life
Comeback Kid Sharon Van Etten Remind Me Tomorrow
Crazy, Classic, Life Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer
Cruel St. Vincent Strange Mercy
Cryin’ in the Streets Zeshan B Cryin’ in the Streets
Dancing on My Own Robyn Body Talk Pt. 1
Delicate Cycle The Uncluded Hokey Fright
Digital Witness St. Vincent St. Vincent
Dirty Money Antibalas Antibalas
Discourse My New Romance Shinedoe, Karin Dreijer Illogical Directions
Divisionary (Do the Right Thing) Ages and Ages Divisionary
Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself Alex Lahey The Best of Luck Club
Don’t Wait Mapei Hey Hey
Don’t Wanna Lose Ex Hex Rips
Down By the Water Decemberists The King is Dead
Dynamite Taio Cruz Rokstarr
Every Day’s the Weekend Alex Lahey I Love You Like a Brother
Everybody Wants to Be Famous Superorganism Superorganism
Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins) Shad Flying Colours
Familiar Agnes Obel Citizen of Glass
Feel this Moment Pitbull, Christina Aguilera Global Warming
Follow Your Arrow Kacey Musgraves Same Trailer Different Park
FREEDOM Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar LEMONADE
FUNKNROLL Prince ART OFFICIAL AGE
Future Politics Austra Future Politics
Gangnam Style Psy Gangnam Style
GMF John Grant Festival
Good as Hell Lizzo Coconut Oil
Good Mistake Mr Little Jeans Pocketknife
Hell You Talmbout Janelle Monáe, Deep Cotton, St. Beauty, Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, and George 2.0 Hell You Talmbout
Helplessness Blues Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues
Hold On You Get Love and Let Go When Give It Stars The North
HOLD UP Beyoncé LEMONADE
Home Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros Up from Below
Hot to Trot Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas Hot to Trot
I Give You Power Arcade Fire, Mavis Staples I Give You Power
I Love It Icona Pop, Charli XCX I Love It
Juice Lizzo Cuz I Love You
Lifted Up Passion Pit Kindred
Look at This A Tribe Called Red A Tribe Called Red
Loud Places Jame xx, Romy In Colour
LOW Young Fathers DEAD
Make Me Feel Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer
MCs Can Kiss Uffie Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans
Memories are Now Jesca Hoop Memories are Now
Mighty Caravan Palace Wonderland – EP
Mourning in America The Milk Carton Kids All the Things that I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do
Nameless, Faceless Courtney Barnett Tell Me How You Really Feel
No Banker Left Behind Ry Cooder Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down
No Going Back Yuno Moodie
Oblivion Grimes Visions
Old Town Road Lil Nas X 7
Once in a Lifetime Angelique Kidjo Remain in Light
Pedestrian at Best Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Quiet Milck This is Not the End
Quiet Erik Blood, Irene Barber Lost in Slow Motion
Right Hand Man Christopher Jackson, Lin-Manuel Miranda Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Rill Rill Sleigh Bells Treats
Rolling in the Deep Adele 21
Romance Wild Flag Wild Flag
Same Love Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert The Heist
Santa Fe Beiruit The Rip Tide
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) Arcade Fire The Suburbs
Starships Nicki Minaj Pink Friday
Step Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City
Stranger Things Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein Stranger Things, Vol. 1
The Cave Mumford & Sons Sigh No More
The Fox Ylvis The Fox
The Scene Between The Go! Team The Scene Between
The Sweetest Thing JJ Grey, Mofro Blues Music
The Underside of Power Algiers The Underside of Power
This Girl Kungs, Cookin’ on 3 Burners Layers
Tightrope Janelle Monáe, Big Boi The ArchAndroid
Tremelo Young Fathers Cocoa Sugar
True Trans Soul Rebel Against Me! Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Uptown Funk Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars Uptown Special
Venus Fly Grimes, Janelle Monáe Art Angels
Violet Clementine Lady Lamb the Beekeeper After
Wave of History Downtown Boys Full Communism
We are Young fun., Janelle Monáe Some Nights
We Found Love Rihanna, Calvin Harris Talk That talk
White Foxes Susanne Sundfør The Silicone Veil
Witness Benjamin Book, Mavis Staples Witness
Work Charlotte Day Wilson CDW
You Want It Darker Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker
Your Best American Girl Mitski Puberty 2

Performance Review: The Christmas Revels: An American Celebration of the Winter Solstice


The Christmas Revels: An American Celebration of the Winter Solstice
December 26, 2019 at 3 pm
Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, MA

Each year the Christmas Revels adopts the music, dance, and storytelling traditions of a different world culture (in addition to some annual Revels traditions). Every so often that theme comes home and focuses on American cultures.  If you’ve been reading my Revels reviews for a while, you’ll remember that I participated in the Revels chorus in 2009 when it had an American theme. Ten years later, I’m fascinated to see another Americana performance from the audience.

I’ve long had an idea for a Revels performance set on the stoops of a row of tenements in an American city in the 1920s/30s. Immigrants from various parts of the world (Ireland, Germany, Italy, Eastern Europe, China, etc.) and African American migrants from the South could come together and share their cultural songs, stories, and traditions of the winter season. 

This performance isn’t quite my imagined Revels, but it does come close! Set during the Dust Bowl/Depression era, a radio station host (Steven Barkhimer) offers guidance to a man named Johnny Johnson (Jeff Song), who is lost his memory and his direction. Johnny travels the country experiencing various American cultural traditions and repeatedly meeting a mysterious woman (Chris Everett-Hussey).

I always say that you don’t go to Revels for the plot. But in recent years they’ve been working on their narrative threads more, so this year’s story feels like a reversion to thinner storylines of the past. It also doesn’t make much sense. Needless to say the song and dance are great so it doesn’t need much else.

Several numbers from the 2009 show are revived in new settings, including:

  • A Shaker circle dance
  • Cherry Tree Carol – illustrated as a “movie” the cast watches
  • Children, Go Where I Send Thee – one of several numbers featuring the excellent vocals of Carolyn Saxon.
  • Longsword Dance to the Southern tune “Sandy Boys.”

Old time music is provided by Tui and Squirrel Butter on several numbers. Ana Vlieg Paulin provides a wonderful solo on “I Wonder as I Wander.” And long-time master of ceremonies keeps the audience on key and on in rhythm. My favorite numbers include:

  • “Dark as a Dungeon” – featuring tired coal miners walking through the audience to return to their families.
  • “Old Grandma Hobble-Gobble” – the Revels Children play a game with storyteller Bobbie Steinbach.
  • Sing-a-long with “I’ll Fly Away.”
  • The gospel of “Trouble All About My Soul.”
  • Medley of “Can the Circle Be Unbroken/This Land is Your Land.”

Performances of the Christmas Revels continue until December 29, so see it if you get the chance. And even if you miss it, mark you calendar for the 50th anniversary show in December 2020.

Related posts:

2019 Year in Review: Favorite Albums


Here are five albums from 2019 that I really loved. Check out my lists of favorite albums from 20142016, 2017 and 2018 as well.

The New Normal by STL GLD

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 listening to.

It’s Real by Ex Hex

This is the second album (following 2014’s Rips) from the Washington, DC based trio of Mary Timony on guitar, bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris.  It’s got a mix of 80s punk and hardrock with touches of power pop and 60s girl groups thrown in.  There’s nothing quite original here, but it is a well-crafted collection of raging guitar solos and sweet harmonies.

The Best of Luck Club by Alex Lahey

Do you like 1980s power pop, but want to hear it from a young, contemporary artist? Australia’s Alex Lahey fits the bill on this album that just totally rocks.  She even rips out a sax solo on “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself.” A year ago this week, I reviewed an album by Lahey’s fellow Australian Courtney Barnett, which I completely loved, and I feel just as strongly for The Best of Luck Club.  Lahey is maybe a bit less edgy musically than Barnett, but her lyrics are empowering and uplifting.  And even on the ballads the pair of ballads that close out the album – “Black RMs” and “I Want to Live With You” – Lahey express the contended domesticity of a loving relationship while still being a rock & roller.

Cut & Stitch by Petrol Girls

I have a soft spot for punk rock that features women’s voices shouting over shredding guitars.  The Petrol Girls website bears the tagline “Raging Feminist Post Hardcore from the UK and Austria” which about sums it up.  And while the shouted lyrics may not always be easy to understand, I appreciate that they’re saying important things, the emotion behind them is clear.

Cuz I Love You by Lizzo

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.

2019 Year in Review: Favorite Songs


The year comes to an end and with it some great music.  Here are a dozen songs I’ll remember from 2019.

What are YOUR favorite songs of 2019 (or any other year for that matter)?  Let me know in the comments.

Jaimie Branch :: prayer for amerikka pt. 1 & 2

I only recently learned of this tune from the Said the Gramophone Best Songs of 2019 list. Jaimie Branch is a jazz saxophonist and composer based in Baltimore who as some things to say about the state of our country.

Billie Eilish :: bury a friend

This was the first song I heard by Billie Eilish, about a month or so before she was suddenly a BIG DEAL, and it’s still my favorite. Billie Eilish’s music is weird, a little bit creepy, yet you can still dance to it.  I never in a million years expected her to have chart success so good on her for redefining pop music.  And she’s just turned 18.

Ex Hex :: Cosmic Cave

Mary Timony’s latest band returns for a second album of pure, unadorned post-punk rock.

Gato Preto featuring the LusAfro Allstars :: Mendinga Carnival

Afrofuturist music arising from the collaboration of a German producer and a pan-African band of artists.

Alex Lahey :: Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself

Like Ex-Hex, the 26-year-old Australian Lahey brings straightforward pop-punk excellence (and an 80s sax solo!) to this song about resisting the pressure to do it all.

Lil Nas X :: Old Town Road

40+ years ago, rap music emerged as an urban style of music before spreading to the suburbs and exurbs, and into cultures around the world. Lil Nas X has at last brought rap into a thoroughly rural area on this track that – no matter what the Billboard Country Chart says – is thoroughly country.

Lizzo :: Juice

Lizzo, her music, and the fact that she rose to widespread fame in 2019, all give me hope in these dark time.s

Priests :: The Seduction of Kansas

A theme of this year is artists who draw on punk influences to do new things. The Priests musical interpretation of Thomas Frank’s What’s The Matter With Kansas? fits the bill.

Rapsody feat. D’Angelo and GZA :: Ibtihaj

This is another track introduced to me by the Said the Gramophone list. Rapsody, aka Marlanna Evans, is a rapper from North Carolina. The title of this track pays tribute to Ibtihaj Muhammad, a fencer who became the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in 2016 Summer Olympics. It also has an amazing groove.

Sampa the Great :: Final Form

Sampa Tembo is a Zambian-born rapper now based in Australia finds another great groove to back this track of finding empowerment in Black identity.

Sir Babygirl :: Haunted House

Kelsie Hogue, who performs under the name Sir Babygirl and has ties to the Boston music scene, performs intense indie pop where they belt out lyrics with trilling vibrato. This song, as I interpret it, explores the inner emotions an introvert may feel about having to go to a party when they really don’t want to.

Sharon Van Etten :: Comeback Kid

Comeback Kid introduced Van Etten’s new harder rock sound with 80s synthpop styling.  Thematically it’s about trying to assert your own identity when the people you love still see you as a kid.

 

 

Favorite Songs by Year, 1973-2018

1973 1974 1975 1976
1977 1978 1979 1980
1981 1982 1983 1984
1985 1986 1987 1988
1989 1990 1991 1992
1993 1994 1995 1996
1997 1998 1999 2000
2001 2002 2003 2004
2005 2006 2007 2008
2009 2010 2011 2012
2013 2014 2015 2016
2017 2018

Monthly Mixtape – November 2019


Happy Thanksgiving!  I’m always thankful for good music, so here’s a few new songs from the past month!

We also have 1 month left in the year and the decade!  Let me know your favorite songs of 2019 and the 2010s in the comments!

Kills Birds :: “Volcano”

Dom La Nena :: Oiseau Sauvage

 


Previous Mixtapes:

Music Discoveries: The Clash


In Music Discoveries, I find artists and bands that I’ve liked but have only listened to a small portion of their output, and do a complete listen of their discography. In the case of the Clash, this is a band I have listened to a more extensively but nevertheless have still found new-to-me music.

Back when the Clash was an active band I was a child who decidedly did not like punk music. Of course, I didn’t really know what punk music was since I basically equated it with heavy metal (and honestly I didn’t really know what heavy metal was either). I first became acquainted with the Clash like many mainstream Americans with their 1982 hit songs “Rock the Casbah” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” In 1989, I was reading a “Best of the 80s” issue of Rolling Stone that ranked the Clash’s London Calling as the #1 album of the decade (despite being released in December 1979). I got a copy from the library and gave it a listen, surprised by what I heard and more surprised that I loved it.

A couple of years later, I started college and many of the people in my dorm listened to the Clash so I got exposed to their other recordings, including the more raw punk of the earlier days. And so, five years after the Clash broke up, I became a fan.

Lately I’ve been trying to learn more about the band by listening to a podcast produced by the BBC and Spotify called Stay Free: The Story of the Clash hosted by Chuck D of Public Enemy fame.  That prompted me to give the Clash the Music Discovery treatment.

Album: The Clash
Release Date: April 8, 1977
Favorite Tracks: “Remote Control,” “I’m So Bored With the U.S.A.,” “White Riot,” “Career Opportunities,” and “Police & Thieves.”
Thoughts:

The Clash come in with a roar on one of the most remarkable debut albums of all time.  This is The Clash at their most raw, most punk rock, and yet already melodic enough to be appealing to squares like me. They even cover a reggae song, “Police & Thieves,” which was innovative at the time. The album also stands as a legacy of the social unrest, inequality, and racial strife of the UK in the 1970s.

Rating: ****1/2


Album: Give ‘Em Enough Rope
Release Date: November 10, 1978
Favorite Tracks: “Guns on the Roof,” “Drug-Stabbing Time,”
Thoughts:

The sophomore effort feels more stripped down and raw than the debut, although the second side is poppier (and “Drug-Stabbing Time” sounds deceptively cheerful).  Lyrically there’s a broadening of topical issues beyond the band’s experiences in London to global political events.  This album doesn’t grab me as much as The Clash, but it’s still quality.

Rating: ***


Album: London Calling
Release Date: December 14, 1979
Favorite Tracks: “London Calling,” “Hateful,” “Rudie Can’t Fail,” “The Right Profile,” “Lost in the Supermarket,” “Guns of Brixton,” “Death or Glory,” “Revolution Rock,” “Train in Vain”
Thoughts:

It’s hard to find anything new to say about what many people consider one of the greatest albums of all time, except to say it is one of the greatest albums of all time.  It’s hard to single out my favorite songs, although “Lost in the Supermarket” has always resonated with me. I wonder what it would’ve been like to hear this album for the first time in 1979.  It must’ve been so unexpected for most listeners of the time.

Rating: *****


Album: Sandinista!
Release Date: December 12, 1980
Favorite Tracks: “The Magnificent Seven,” “Hitsville, U.K.,” “Somebody Got Murdered,” “The Sound of Sinners,” “Lose This Skin”
Thoughts:

Almost a year to the date of releasing a double album, the Clash follow up with a triple album! Sandinista! is reminiscent of the Beatles “White Album” in it’s diversity of musical styles, large list of guest musicians, and the sense that one could pare down this sprawl into a great single album, but what would you cut?  The new wave and “world music” sounds of the album seem to be years ahead of the rest of music world.

Rating: ***1/2


Album: Combat Rock
Release Date: May 14, 1982
Favorite Tracks: “Know Your Rights,” “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” and “Straight to Hell”
Thoughts: The band’s best-selling album is more radio-friendly with tracks like “Rock the Casbah” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” but I don’t think the band compromised too much for commercial success. Other tracks on the album like “Know Your Rights” hearken back to their early punk rock sound. And then there’s music that doesn’t sound like anything else ever made, like “Straight to Hell,” one of my all-time favorite songs by any band.
Rating: ***1/2


Album: Cut the Crap
Release Date: November 5, 1985
Favorite Tracks: none
Thoughts: This is the much-maligned final album of the disillusioned remnant of a once great band.  The songs are formulaic, recorded over cheezy 80s synth with shout-along choruses that sound like a crowd of drunken football supporters.  It’s not terrible, but it it is boring, which is about the worst thing one can say about the Clash.
Rating: *


My Clash All-Time Top Ten Songs

Aramagideon Time (Live at Shea Stadium)

(NOTE: The live performance combines Armagideon Time with The Magnificent Seven which is not evident from the YouTube clip)

I’m So Bored With the U.S.A.

Know Your Rights

Lost in the Supermarket

Remote Control

Revolution Rock

Rudie Can’t Fail

Somebody Got Murdered

Straight to Hell

(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 9


Twenty Thousand Hertz  :: Baby Shark

The long history of the ubiquitous children’s song that became an unexpected hit this year.

Lost at the Smithsonian :: Archie Bunker’s Chair

Norman Lear’s groundbreaking show All in the Family depicted the real divisions within American family.  The famed overstuffed armchair remains on display at the Smithsonian as recognition of the show’s place in history. By the way, I’ve never before noticed how much Donald Trump’s vocal intonations resemble Archie Bunker’s.

Throughline :: No Friends But the Mountains

A history of the Kurds, a people without a nation.

Wedway Radio :: The Evolution of Disney Lands

Breaking down how Disney parks have created lands that evolved from a loose collection of attractions around a theme to fully immersive experiences.


Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending October 26


Best of the Left :: Why Prison Abolition is not Nearly as Scary as it Sounds

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Virtual Choir

Radiolab :: Birdie in the Cage

WBUR :: Anthony Martignetti And That Famous Prince Spaghetti Ad, 50 Years Later

Dolly Parton’s America :: I Will Always Leave You

You Must Remember This :: Disney’s Most Controversial Film

The Memory Palace :: Late One Night


Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:

Album Reviews: Quick Thoughts


What if I didn’t review any albums for some time and then did a bunch at once?  Again?

AlbumThe Competition
Artist: Lower Dens
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “Two Faced Love” and “Young Republicans”
Thoughts: These songs have a lush sound reminiscent of the 1980s New Romantics.  Which is fine, if you’ve listened to all of that 35+ year old music and yearn for more. The big twist is that lyrically it is much more political than romantic.
Rating: **1/2


Album: Close It Quietly
Artist: Frankie Cosmos
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “41st,” “So Blue,”
Thoughts: Greta Kline follows up on 2018’s Vessel with another collection of lo-fi folk rock tunes.  Her sweet voice clearly sings ruminative lyrics about growing into adulthood.
Rating: ***


Album: Crush
Artist: Floating Points
Release Date: October 18, 2019
Thoughts: This collection of minimalist electronic music from UK musician Sam Shepherd was just what I needed to hear right now.
Rating: ****

 


Album: There Existed an Addiction to Blood
Artist: clipping.
Release Date: October 18, 2019
Favorite Tracks: “Nothing is Safe,” “The Show, and “Blood of the Fang”
Thoughts: This the third album from this experimental hip-hop act from Los Angeles, and first since 2016’s Splendor & Money.  There are two great things about this album: 1. the rapid rhymes of Daveed Diggs (of Hamilton fame) and 2. the deep-textured synth sounds he raps over.  The lyrics are grim and gory, making it an appropriate addition to your Halloween party playlist.
Rating: ****