Nubya Garcia :: “Source (feat. Ms Maurice, Cassie Kinoshi, Richie Seivwright)”
The Go! Team :: “Cookie Scene”
Will Butler :: “Surrender”
Nation of Language :: “Rush & Fever”
Desire :: “Escape”
Album: FREE I.H: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For
Artist: Illuminati Hotties
Release Date: July 17, 2020
Singer/songwriter Sarah Tudzin’s pioneering work in “tenderpunk” takes a turn in this brief (12 songs in 24 minutes) but eclectic collection. This is the band’s sophomore effort after Kiss Yr Frenemies and shows a willingness to experiment. The album comes in the wake of their record label’s demise explaining why it is self-released and probably why it is so short. Still, if this is just a place holder until the next “real” album comes out, then we can expect great things.
Album: Dialectic Soul
Artist: Asher Gamedze
Release Date: July 10, 2020
Label: On the Corner
I don’t know much about jazz, but I know what I like. South African drummer Asher Gamedze draws on free jazz and Black liberation traditions of the 1960s and 70s and fuses them with contemporary jazz and protest music. The standout track “siyabulela,” a slow tune with vocals by Nono Nkoane cuts to the soul.
Album: Jump Rope Gazers
Artist: The Beths
Release Date: July 10, 2020
Label: Carpark Records
The New Zealand quartet lead by vocalist Elizabeth Stokes performs perfect power pop. The Beths draw on a lot of pop/rock traditions but never seem to be derivative. The songs are head boppers while the lyrics are tender and introspective. In short, it’s perfect music for rocking out in a Covid Summer.
Note: The Beths’ “Future Me Hates Me” was my 19th favorite song of 2018.
Gabriel Teodros :: “If They Come for Me in the Morning… (feat. Aisha Fukushima)”
Liv.e :: “SirLadyMakemFall”
Sibille Attar :: “Hurt Me”
Holy Hive :: “Blue Light”
The Suffers :: “Take Me To The Good Times”
Sylvan Esso :: “Ferris Wheel”
MC Zulu & Bionik :: “Dancehall Energy”
Zee Avi :: “Good Things”
Album: National Freedom
Artist: Lonnie Holley
Release Date: July 3, 2020
Lonnie Holley of Alabama works in many art disciplines, visual media and sculpture, as well as experimental blues music. This album collects music recorded in a 2014 session. His music is rooted in blues with his gravelly vocals reminiscent of Howlin’ Wolf but his performance draws on the improvisation of jazz (particularly on the 11-minute final track “So Many Rivers (The First Time)”). The result is oft-time weird, but not inscrutable, and evocative of deep human emotions.
This week I’m posting less of a music review, and more of a suggestion for a couple of recordings I found clever, enjoyable, and even educational. Each is a compilation of works by various artists that draw inspiration from a flying animal. In one case, bats, and in the other, birds:
Album: Field Works, by Ultrasonic
Release Date: May 1, 2020
Label: Temporary Residence
Stuart Hyatt returns with another sonic wonder in the Field Works series, bringing the listener into truly uncharted acoustic territory. Ultrasonic is perhaps the ﬁrst-ever album to use the echolocations of bats as compositional source material. For this special album, Hyatt has assembled an extraordinary group of contributors: Eluvium, Christina Vantzou, Sarah Davachi, Ben Lukas Boysen, Machinefabriek, Mary Lattimore, Felicia Atkinson, Noveller, Chihei Hatakeyama, John Also Bennett, Kelly Moran, Taylor Deupree, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Julien Marchal, and Player Piano. Ultrasonic is part of a broader storytelling project about the federally endangered Indiana bat. Generously funded by the IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute and the National Geographic Society, each album contains an ofﬁcial printed booklet of The Endangered Species Act of 1973.
Album: A Guide to the Birdsong of Mexico, Central America, & the Caribbean
Release Date: June 26, 2020
Label: Shika Shika
An album of music inspired by the song of endangered birds with 100% of the profits going towards organisations working to protect them.
“A Guide to the Birdsong of Mexico, Central America & the Caribbean” is the second Volume in the series following on from “A Guide to the Birdsong of South America”, originally released on Robin’s label Rhythm and Roots. Volume I raised nearly 15,000 USD for two birding organisations and featured artists like Nicola Cruz, Dengue Dengue Dengue and Chancha Via Circuito.
For this second edition we have shifted focus north of the equator and to the vulnerability of bird species like the Momoto Carenado (Nicaragua), Ferminia (Cuba) and the Jamaican Blackbird (Jamaica), birds who have dwindled in numbers as a result of the environmental repercussions of climate change, deforestation and trapping for the pet trade.
For the album we chose 10 endangered or threatened bird species and challenged 10 of our favourite producers or musicians from the region. Working with the Xeno Canto birdsong community and the Macaulay Library, we sourced a recording of each bird’s song. Each artist was then asked to create an original piece of music inspired by the bird and its song.
In line with out vision at Shika Shika the curation of artists is specifically geared towards those bridging connections between traditional music and modernity, or between organic and electronic sounds. There are contributions from artists in eight different countries, ranging from Jamaica’s organic dancehall trio Equiknoxx, to Dj Jigüe, one of the leaders of Cuba’s burgeoning electronic scene. Belize’s critically renowned Garifuna Collective have been bringing the unique Garifuna culture and language to a global audience for many years, while Tamara Montenegro has been one of the leaders of Nicaragua’s electronic music scene for the past decade.
The project would not have been possible without the support of an incredible Kickstarter community, helping us raise £12,599 in August 2019.
Once the costs of production have been covered, all of the proceeds from this album will be donated to Birds Caribbean, La Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica and Fundacion TXORI in Mexico. All profits from the sales of the record, music streaming, poster and t-shirt will be shared between these organisations who focus on engaging local communities to help improve and grow the bird tourism sector, create awareness of vulnerable birds with young people and crucially, provide rescue, rehabilitation and breeding programmes.
Last week I had no podcasts to share. This week I have a bumper crop!
Pioneering Nigerian drummer Tony Allen died this spring, shortly after releasing his final album Rejoice, with Hugh Masekela. Afropop Worldwide revisits Allen’s storied career.
My favorite history podcast BackStory comes to an end with an episode about finales in American history, from President George Washington to Mary Tyler Moore.
The story of a Black Boston teenager, Fred Clay, who spent 38 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted based on evidence the police extracted using hypnosis.
Rachel Carson, the extinction of bird species, and climate change.
The modern practice of paramedics serving communities with an emergency medical service began in the Black community in Pittsburgh just over 50 years ago.
One side benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic is the reduced use of automobiles. Some cities (not Boston, of course) have even taken advantage of creating space for people to walk and bike by closing roads to cars. But even in rural areas, animals are thriving because of fewer collisions with motor vehicles.
If you’re American, you’ve inevitably sung along with the chorus “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” baseball’s unofficial anthem. But if you’ve never heard the chorus, you may not know that the song is about a woman who wants to watch baseball at a time when that was considered a men’s only activity. The podcast explores the history of how the song went “viral” and features music by Chicago White Sox organist Nancy Faust.
Civil disturbances in Black communities in America in 1967 lead President Johnson to call the Kerner Commission. The commission’s report revealed evidence of police violence that was criticized and ignored at the time, but still reads as a diagnoses of our present-day crises.
Album: The Cycle
Artist: Mourning [A] BLKstar
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Label: Don Giovanni Records
The Mourning [A] BLKstar website describes the group thusly:
We are a multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture dedicated to servicing the stories and songs of the apocalyptic diaspora.
Founded in Cleveland, Ohio.
I can’t sum up MAB any better than that. The music has touches of soul, touches of gospel,touches of jazz, and touches of hiphop, all built over electronic music. The music is most reminiscent to me of Algiers, but MAB is mostly unique and original. If you like strong vocals, beautiful harmonies, horns that lift you up, and beats that make you want to move, this album is for you.
I’ve spent the past month “catching up” on album releases from the first six months of 2020, and this is my favorite of the year so far, but also probably the most important release of 2020.
We are halfway through the year 2020! Only halfway, you say? Yes! But all things considered, there has been some good music from this wreck of a year. Here’s a list of 20 songs I love from 2020.
If there’s a song that you think belongs on this list, let me know in the comments.