What I’m Listening to Now – February 2017


Better late than never, here is the report of what I was listening to in February, a short month punctuated by a delightful vacation where I mostly listened to the laughter of my children.

Podcasts of the Month

Fresh AirThe History of US Intervention

A discussion of the United States involvement with the rest of the world from isolationism to the world’s police to the more sinister activities of imperialism and corporate hegemony.

Jacobin RadioWe Can Do Better

What is capitalism, what role does it play in our lives, and is it really the best we can do?

To The Best of Our KnowledgeA Borderless World

Borders and immigration are a key issue of our times.  These stories illustrate how the idea of borders is becoming an outdated one.

BackStoryWorld Apart

The divide between urban and rural populations is one of the major causes of political disagreement in the US today, and one that goes back throughout the history of the United States.

This American LifeIt’s Working Out Very Nicely

Stories of the confusion and struggle that arose in the wake of Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations.

Twenty Thousand HertzAudio Descriptions

Movies have a track of audio description intended to help the visually impaired and this podcast describes the art of narration and how audio descriptions can benefit all viewers.

Decode DCHow cops can legally take your car, home, or cash

The chilling law of civil asset forfeiture that allows police to take property from suspects even if they’re not convicted or even charged with crimes.

Have You Heard?You’re Fired

All about why school turnarounds – a theory of fixing low-performing schools by firing the teachers and staff that has widespread, bipartisan support – is an idea that doesn’t work, and what actually does.

Song of the Month

Chicago singer-songwriter Zeshan Bagewadi (aka Zeshan B) provides a powerful interpretation of the 1970 protest anthem “Cryin’ in the Streets” by  George Perkins that ties together generations of protest for justice and equality in the United States.  Learn more about the song The World interview.

 

Albums of the Month

Artist: Tinariwen
Album: Elwan
Release Date: 10 February 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Sastanàqqàm,” Ténéré Tàqqàl,” “Assàwt,” and “Nànnuflày”
Thoughts: The Northern Africa Desert Blues band from Mali’s most recent release includes guest appearances by indie artists like Kurt Vile, but the band itself is the stand out performer of this collection of melodic, resonant, and politically-charged tunes.
Rating: ***1/2


 

Artist: Clap! Clap!
Album: A Thousand Skies
Release Date: 17 February 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Ar-Raqis” and “Elephant Seranade”
Thoughts: Clap! Clap! is a project of Italian producer Cristiano Crisci, who creates instrumental dance tracks relying heavily on indigenous percussion.  An earlier Clap! Clap! recording, Tayi Bebba,  made my 2014 favorite albums list.  While not as strong as its predecessor, A Thousand Skies is equally enjoyable as festive ambient music for a party or for getting through a gray day at work
Rating: ***1/2


Artist: Visible Cloaks
AlbumReassemblage
Release Date: 17 February 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Bloodstream”, “Place,” “Valve (Revisited)”
Thoughts: Somewhere between Phillip Glass, a church organist, and a lullaby lies this lovely collection of ambient tunes.
Rating: ***


Artist: Molly Burch
AlbumPlease Be Mine
Release Date: 17 February 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Fool”
Thoughts: A collection of retro, country-tinged tracks sung sweetly by a barroom singer.  It’s pretty and well-produced, and while there’s nothing wrong with Burch’s album it’s nothing we  haven’t heard before from Patsy Cline and singers produced by Phil Spector among others, so it’s just a tad bit dull.
Rating: **


 

Song of the Week: “Life on Mars?” by Sophia Anne Caruso


Just when you thought there was already enough David Bowie content on this blog, today’s Song of the Week comes from the recently released cast recording of the David Bowie musical, Lazarus.  Sophia Anne Caruso’s interpretation of “Life on Mars?” is the perfect Bowie and the musical theater.  I can’t stop listening to it.

Take a gander and see if you think the same.

 

Song of the Week: “Tired By Kids” by Poitín


Today, we are halfway to St. Patrick’s Day as celebrated on the Irish & Celtic Music Podcast.  Thus this week’s song is an Irish folk tune from halfway around the world in the Czech Republic, where the band Poitín is one of the most prominent members of the Irish pub music scene.

I can related to the subject matter of this tune “Tired By Kids” as related on the band’s website:

Tom (concertina) wrote the last tune in this set and named it after his own experience as a father of three kids and owner of a very boisterous dog. Celebrating the ups and downs of parenthood!

Song of the Week: “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski


The song “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski has been out for several months, but I only became acquainted with it a few weeks ago, and then I heard it broken down in this excellent episode of the Song Exploder.

Song of the Week: “Ya” by Factory Floor


“Ya” by Factory Floor is reminiscent of “Oh Yeah” by Yello, perhaps even less lyrically challenging, but I can still envision it played over an action montage in an 80s comedy.  It’s Labor Day Weekend after all, and the workers of the world don’t want to think too hard, but they do want to dance.

Song of the Week: “O B 1” by Jagwar Ma


“O B 1” by Jagwar Ma is reminiscent of the industrial dance music inflected alternative rock of the early 1990s, a style of music that seems to be overlooked in 90s music retrospectives, but one I dug.  The Australian band will release their full album Every Now & Then in October.

More at KEXP Song of the Day.

Song of the Week: “Fear and Beer (Hymn for Brexit)” by The Mekons


The legendary post-punk band The Mekons have composed what may be the first protest song of Brexit.  Appropriate for a boozy sing-a-long at a pub, it is also a call to action

Song of the Week: “Transition” by DIRTYGIRL


The lo-fi punk band from London DIRTYGIRL offers “Transition,” a track with a tight power pop sound and vocals reminiscent of early Liz Phair.  It’s off their Junk Food EP released in October, and made known to my by The Sounds in My Head podcast.

Song of the Week: “Cada Dia Es Domingo” by Mexrrissey


You haven’t heard the music of English alternative superstar Morrissey until you’ve heard it in its original Mexican version, or so it would seem upon listening to Mexrissey‘s rendition of “Everyday is Like Sunday” called “Cada Dia Es Domingo.”  It’s a sad song, but I’m happy it exists.

http://www.kcrw.com/music/shows/todays-top-tune/mexrrissey-cada-dia-es-domingo

Song of the Week: “Comicon” by SassyBlack


“Comicon” is a funky celebration of going to a science fiction/fantasy convention dressed as your favorite characters.  It comes from “space aged singer, songwriter & producer” SassyBlack, aka Cat Harris-White.

Song of the Week: “Stadium Pow Wow” by A Tribe Called Red


I believe A Tribe Called Red becomes my first third time Song of the Week honoree with this post.  But I can’t resist the Ottawa, Ontario groups mix of electronic dance music with traditional First Nations chanting and drumming.  And on “Stadium Pow Wow” they’ve somehow turned this unique blend into a jock jam!  The video is spectacular as well.