Single of the week from last week!

@@@ Marianne Faithfull: The Gypsy Faerie Queen (BMG, 2018) I wanted to love the rest of her new solo record as much as I love this song but it didn’t happen. However, I’m grateful to her and Nick Cave for this pretty damned close to perfect sad and beautiful tune that could be about any number of things. Metaphorical it is. I find her vocals simple and very moving.

Best of 2018 Pick 11

Shad: A Short Story About War (Secret City, 2018)

This hip hop record is most certainly the first record I’ve loved that has been traced back to NPR. I can’t stomach the music picks of the New York Times or NPR but this record is great. A hat tip to my friend Daniel for hipping me to this record.

The lyrics on this record shine — smart, conceptual, well thought out. It’s called some sort of concept record but I think that’s bogus. Just because an MC is intelligent enough to connect warmongering with capitalism does not a concept album make. It’s called thinking motherfuckers.

The arrangements here are really good with no particular bent — there are some jazzy sounds and mellow ones and there are more driving and urgent arrangements (for example the tune clipped below).

Shad is a great MC with a friendly voice. The tunes bounce back and forth between more militant and darker tunes about war (such as the third tuneStone Throwers (Gone In a Blink)) and more partyistic celebrations of blackness that will not be played at Trump Nazi rallies.

Regardless of Shad’s voice or the arrangments the draw here remains the lyrics. Nobody in any genre of music is talking about war and capitalism and race and the environment in this manner. All in a soulful and non-pretentious style. When he busts out the line ‘they see people run, so they run, they see people die so they die’ — you can’t fuck with that.

Check it out.

Best of 2018 Pick 10

Tim Hecker: Konoyo (Kranky, 2018)

I’ve learned over and over again that most music listeners consider themselves sophisticated but yet they are prejudiced against dark and unsettling music. Folks will watch anything — violence, sinister shit, horror movies, etc but at the end of the day their preference is for shiny, happy music. And I could give a flying fuck for that preference and continue to recommend records of extremely high quality without regard for vibe.

Tim Hecker’s new record, Konoyo, is dark. And it’s also unsettling. It’s also extremely well put together and beautiful. It is an ambient music record without drums or over rhythms with an emphasis on metallic sounds and bell like sounds. There are other sounds but these sounds are core to the record. The pace is slow without being glacial.

Writing about ambient music is similar to writing about jazz — it’s very difficult to do without sounding like a pretentious dickhole.

This is a great record for the moment we are living in and folks should check it out. I listen to hundreds of records each year and this record is one of the best I’ve heard this year.

2018 Honorable Mention Pick 7

serpentwithfeet: soil (Secretly Canadian, 2018)

I will not bore regular readers with my grievances against the aesthetic (and racial) assumptions of indie rock, but suffice it to say this alt r&b indie record works for me because it does not succumb to those standard assumptions.

If you don’t like the singer here you’re not going to enjoy this record. At all. He’s very dramatical with confessional and hyper emotional lyrics and I’m not usually up for that but the way he works his songs feels genuine to me. I can’t find a pose here and that’s great.

It also helps that the arrangements for these tunes are more supportive of the vocalist than attempting to overtake him. Sonically the tunes are not super crowded and overwhelming. The sounds on the record are pretty stripped down with synths and drum machines — no crazy shredding guitar solos, giant horn sections. To me this lends a welcome focus to the record and prevents it from sprawling all over the place with over the top arrangements and an over the top singer.

Check it out!