This site's focus is and always will be new music; however, it's not all that I listen to. That's what Weekly Roundup! will target. In short, it's a way for me to shed light on artists, albums, and singles, that I might not get to talk about. The list will change from week to week, delivering five (or so) artists or works that consume me during that time. I will still include recent releases from time to time if I'm really taken with them, like last week with Palmistry and Shura, but generally I'll just mention in passing the newer releases that I'm enjoying the most, which, right now, are TOKiMONSTA's Midnight Menu, Honne's Warm On A Cold Night, and Michael Kiwanuka's Love & Hate (especially this) at the moment. Check them out and see what you think! Hopefully you get as much joy out of these tunes as I have, and will continue to! Happy listening!
I apologize in advance for being annoyingly generous with my love of this musician. Chris Thile is, without a doubt, my favorite musician in the world. As the head of the now disbanded Nickel Creek (but temporarily revived in 2014!), and current leader of my favorite band of all time, Punch Brothers, he has crafted songs filled with depth and beauty, to which there is no end. His solo work not only cements, but expands that belief. He is truly in a league of his own; even the word prodigy somehow feels empty when used to describe his talents. I’ve seen him countless times, both by himself and with a handful of different groups, and he never fails to completely captivate. With humility, humor, professionalism, musicianship, poetry, and infinite love and respect for his craft, he embodies to me, not just an artist, but a true original.
I recently saw him perform with Béla Fleck, a legend himself, which is what prompted me to include him this week. I listen to Chris’ work in some form or another everyday (not an exaggeration) and for me to try and not only choose one song, but one album, would be difficult. Unfortunately I can’t post his entire catalogue, so I’m choosing two albums. Because I’ve talked about Punch Brothers a fair amount on this site [including naming their gem, The Phosphorescent Blues, the best album of 2015 (here’s my Top 50)] I’ve chosen two albums I’ve only mentioned in passing. The first is his 2013 solo release, Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1, in which he tackles everything with only his mandolin. To experience the level of his skill and technique, check out track 8, “Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002: IV. Double: Presto.” The second album more of you might be familiar with, it’s Chris’ collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Stuart Duncan (fiddle), and Edgar Meyer (bass), entitled The Goat Rodeo Sessions. I’ve seen a lot of shows, too many probably, but the Goat Rodeo concert at the Hollywood Bowl is up there with the best of all time. I haven’t experienced anything like it since. The opening track says it all; the beautiful cello melody, the soaring fiddle, Chris’ mandolin dancing around, the lively bass keeping the tempo, unreal.
I should also note that Chris has a solo show in LA on August 23rd at the Largo at the Coronet, and I highly suggest you all attend. In addition, 3/4th of The Goat Rodeo Sessions crew (Chris, Yo-Yo Ma, and Edgar Meyer) will be performing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on May 3rd, 2017. Just mark your calendars now. Seriously. MARK THEM.
A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders
I was talking with one of my friends the other day about how I feel, and I'm sure the majority would agree, that Kendrick Lamar is already among the great MC's. He wasn’t having any of it, saying that no one in the last decade can touch the bulls who spit in the 90's. While I don’t agree with him and feel like that's the argument of people who haven't given enough attention to the talents of today, I have to acknowledge that that era, as a whole, offered me more than I get from the here and now. The 90's is also where my love of hip hop unfurled, and my foundation and appreciation was built. Those early years gave me a lot of direction, and while there was a handful of artists that I attribute my growth too, the one I listen to the most is A Tribe Called Quest; specifically Midnight Marauders (the album that Logic structured his debut LP Under Pressure after, no wonder I dug it so much).
Wu Tang brought the grit, Outkast brought the funk, but Tribe brought the smooth. It was slick, relaxed, intelligent, funny, challenging...the list goes on. While a few groups offered that same vibe (De La Soul and Souls of Mischief come to mind), nobody could touch Tribe. I can't tell you how many times I put this on and just laid on my bed, staring at the ceiling. In fact, I think I'll do that again right now. Join me. My favorite track is "Electric Relaxation," in case you were wondering.
To clarify, Patrick Watson is both the name of the band and the man that leads it. Long story short, Watson and his band worked under his name for a few projects and when things went well they decided to keep it, as they’d already established themselves (kind of). Fast forward to the present, the band released their fifth LP last year, Love Songs for Robots, and with each release they get better and better. Where many artists struggle for inspiration, they continue to evolve musically and lyrically. Their unique blend of genres combined with Watson’s soft and soothing vocals make for a really genuine listening experience; one that can only be topped by their live show where intimacy and wonder reign supreme.
There’s a handful of songs I think you should familiarize yourself with if you haven’t listened to this crew, so I've chosen one song from each album. These songs all work better within the album, and while they might not be my favorite from each, I think they accurately represent the feel the record is showcasing. I'll start with the oldest and work my way up.
Just Another Ordinary Day (2003)
Close To Paradise (2006)
Wooden Arms (2009)
Love Songs For Robots (2015)
Maria Leck - The Big Storm
Maria’s 2014 debut album, The Big Storm, disappeared just as quietly as it came. I can’t say why it didn’t catch on, even with a niche crowd. I loved it so much and the talent is definitely there. You can tell she draws from a diverse group of artists, anywhere from present day to decades long passed, though her vocal delivery definitely lends itself to a classic style. I wrote about her latest single, “Lines,” earlier this month, a song that already has more listens than her entire first record combined. I really hope her fan base expands and she starts getting a little more recognition, if only so she knows how talented she is and how much potential she has! I can't wait to see how she grows as an artist. Here's her record in full; the three track run of "Help Yourself," "Black Expectations," and "Coney Island & Swedish Fields," is my favorite. Each song is a different genre yet she makes them complement each other so well. Enjoy!
Many of you may not know the name but you’ve definitely heard him play. Though he’s most recognized as the guitarist for Radiohead, he’s made a name for himself in the world of cinema over the decade as the go-to man to score director Paul Thomas Anderson’s films. His perfect, often unsettling score for There Will Be Blood struck a chord with almost everyone who saw it, and he hasn’t looked back since. Recently, HBO has been graciously playing one of my favorite films of 2015, Inherent Vice, pretty much non-stop (if you didn’t enjoy it the first time watch it again…and again…and again…I swear it gets better each time). Greenwood’s score as a standalone piece is simple, thoughtful, and complementary; while blending perfectly with the songs of the era that are injected throughout the film. While much of it has a noir-ish feel, the track I’m choosing is a gorgeous folk piece that plays during one of the films final scenes. A track that I also used in my recently released and unfortunately belated summer mix, which you can check out HERE! Also, if you like his style and want more, listen to the score for The Master, which I'd have to say is my favorite.
KAMAU - A Gorgeous Fortune EP
Now I need to give a quick shout out to KAMAU, whom I've posted about every time he released a new single, but failed to acknowledge when he finally released the songs as a collective on the EP A Gorgeous Fortune, which came out earlier this month. I can't stop listening. His brand of hip hop is pure energy! A very tribal feel is injected instantly and you can't help but feel overwhelmed with the desire to move. The way he layers his vocals, in both his singing with harmonies and as the source of his beats (beat boxing seems to be his greatest instrument) is excellent. While the majority of his debut is fun (tell me "Gaims" isn't the perfect Summer song), he finishes on a serious note with a social commentary in "PohLease." He's very much his own brand and it's awesome, plain and simple. Put it on, you won't be able to stop. In addition, I'll post his cover of Andre 3000's "Hey Ya," this guy is the real deal.
Cocteau Twins - "Alice"
I'll go ahead and finish you guys off with a song that has been stuck in my head ALL WEEK. This song is gorgeous; the contrast of the voices, sweeping and angelic, make the harmonies soar as the piano glides throughout. I never get tired of it, it's like drifting on a cloud.