A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.
Dan Charnas, The Big Payback Dan Charnas published this immersive history of the business side of hip-hop in 2010, and his vivid, lively storytelling moves at a quick clip that makes it easy to breeze through each voluminous chapter. I wish The Big Payback came with a compilation of the harder-to-find tracks that Charnas mentions to illustrate the lives of hip-hop's influential players—if you've got a copy of the Townhouse Three's "Straight From the Back of the N-41," hit me up.
The ads in HeartattaCk zine In a streak of good fortune that's been bad for my financial fortunes, I've recently stumbled upon several small caches of 90s emo and screamo seven-inches at local record shops—Angel Hair, Strictly Ballroom, Compound Red, and so on. This led me to the archives of defunct left-coast zine HeartattaCk, which wore its left-wing ideology and its love for all forms of emo on its sleeve. A single page might contain advertisements jammed together from a half-dozen labels and bands that don't even qualify for footnotes on Wikipedia today, and each ad is a great little time capsule within the larger time capsule of the issue as a whole. If you've got any back issues of 90s emo zines, hit me up.
Justin Bieber, "Sorry" Skrillex and Bieber continue to bring out the best in each other with this minimalist, tropical-tinged ode to redemption. If you need someone to help you hear the virtues of this alternately tender and enthralling track, hit me up.
Leor is curious what's in the rotation of . . .
Alice Coltrane, Divine Songs I listen to this before I perform. It's primal. It's occult. Coltrane's singing is guttural; she grunts from the pit of her soul. The dark richness of her voice carries weight and grounds us, while her breathiness allows for release. The synth portamentos sigh with her, sometimes ascending to relief. Her music covers the full spiritual spectrum on this album.
Augustus Pablo & King Tubby, King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown A go-to album. Happy times, chill times. It's dubbed out, but it's digestible. Subtle textures and chord changes, simple syncopation, simple licks. And the melodica! Featured prominently, it's basically a child's toy. The production edits are incredibly obvious, and you can hear inaccuracies in melody and timing. But this record grooves at my life's happy tempo, and I love that the combination of humans playing acoustic instruments and adding electronics is so audible. There's no attempt to disguise the blend.
Gas, Pop This 2000 release is one of the first ambient albums I fell in love with. It's incredibly immersive despite its minimalism. There's a pulse created by silencing some of the textures, showing that simplifying sound can create more abundance. The nature samples are driven electronically, or is it vice versa? Running water stops and pulls the swelling, drifting chords through the silence. There's always an internal throbbing within the elongated tones. The energy of Pop reminds me of the suspension between inhalation and exhalation. It's the subtle changes in motion that allow you to breathe with it.
Natalie is curious what's in the rotation of . . .
Mree, Grow This 2011 indie-folk album will always be one of my favorites. Mree has a very soft, effortless tone, and her writing is just as incredible as her voice. She uses a great deal of imagery that taps into listeners' imaginations. I've read that she writes, records, and mixes all of her own material. She definitely inspired me to take matters into my own hands and begin to create. If you're into beautifully written music, she's your gal.
Jai Paul's 2013 "album" leak Though this pirated collection of allegedly unfinished recordings didn't turn out to be Jai Paul's debut album, I feel that it's definitely worth mentioning. I was put onto Jai Paul this year, and I instantly fell in love. This project introduced a new version of electronic soul/R&B. Paul's writing is extremely simple and repetitive, but each word he writes holds a ton of weight. He's definitely one to check out.
Cecile McLorin Salvant, WomanChild I have a huge soft spot for remarkable jazz artists, and Cecile McLorin Salvant is definitely one of those artists. Her 2013 album WomanChild is a compilation of jazz gems that she's translated in the most beautiful way. Not only does she add very tasteful flair, but she also utilizes her large range exceptionally. I'm most intrigued by her ability to distort the vowels in particular words to emphasize the emotion behind them. Though I missed her recent show in Chicago, she's worth the wait to see no matter how long it takes her to come back. v