Kim Gordon raps her shopping list — it's hot and terrifying
There are so many ways for music to enter your life. At your corner shop, at a party, on someone's playlist or podcast, via radio, smartly soundtracking a pivotal moment on a television show or movie — total sensory overload! As someone who listens to an absurd amount of music every day for both NPR Music and myself — not to mention a 5-year-old who keeps a playlist of favorites heard from her papa's music — I can function as your antidote to the algorithm.
Each week, y'all will get eight tracks picked by me, someone who regularly appears on All Songs Considered, makes a weekly-ish Viking's Choice mixtape, obsessively collects records and tapes, has written and edited hundreds of music reviews, and produced Tiny Desk concerts from the likes of Dawn Richard, Paramore and GWAR. Most songs will be new, some old, but every sound is connected somehow. And because I can't possibly know and hear everything, you can expect my colleagues to show up here, too.
Kim Gordon, "BYE BYE"
You know that tired cliche about someone's voice being so nice you could listen to them sing the phonebook? Well, I could listen to Kim Gordon rap her shopping list, which she does here in a way that I could only describe as "hot" and "terrifying." For decades in Sonic Youth and on her own, Gordon's exuded her own kind of avant-garde cool, but forging her own lane through thrashing, trash-rap? We are not ready for this shaking hell.
The Shangri-Las, "Give Him a Great Big Kiss"
When Mary Weiss, lead singer of The Shangri-Las, died last week, I immediately thought about this song and the college girlfriend who would recite its opening line like a mantra: "When I say I'm in love, you best believe I'm in love. L-U-V." But I also thought about Kim Gordon. In her 2015 memoir, Girl in a Band, Gordon credits The Shangri-Las' speak-sing style as an influence on her own. Her band Sonic Youth also referenced the '60s girl-group on a 1995 duet with Kim Deal, "Little Trouble Girl." In both cases, a tough tenderness prevails — a distanced cool that shades an emotion mysterious, yet alluring.
Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, "Return of the Lost Tribe"
Great songs endure, especially in jazz, where they evolve and deepen with time. Originally written by percussionist Kahil El'Zabar and recorded for the group Bright Moments in 1998 — a reunion of Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians alumni — "Return of the Lost Tribe" is a statement of purpose for longtime comrades in creative music. In this new version, the three-chord modality allows a different group of horns to splash the bass-y Monk groove with bright colors.
Pernice Brothers, "Who Will You Believe"
Joe Pernice can write an entire story in an opening line: "I knew a beggar who said she heard a higher calling / She bought a jet plane even though the sky is falling." Devastating, but delivered on a cloud of two-dollar chords and pop arrangements worthy of Bacharach. For just over 25 years, he has given an everyman's take on sophisticated songcraft through the Pernice Brothers; on this gorgeous track, Pernice has hit his stride again.
R.A.P. Ferreira & Fumitake Tamura (feat. Hprizm), "begonias"
Few beatmakers know R.A.P. Ferreira's flow better than himself, but Japanese producer Fumitake Tamura both understands the rapper's disjointed dream logic and updates his "poetic weapons system." In the track's crisp production, you can hear the quiet working itself out in R.A.P. Ferreira's mind.
Jlin (feat. Philip Glass), "The Precision of Infinity"
What a flex. This ain't exactly the electronic artist's debut, but it is from Akoma, Jlin's first album since getting shortlisted for a Pulitzer — to get a Philip Glass feature is quite the reintroduction. Jlin's beats are jilted and frenetic but charged with curiosity, an inspiring setting for Glass' altocumulus clouds of piano, slightly glitched by this thrilling collaboration.
Mali Obomsawin & Magdalena Abrego, "Masterpieces"
I could live inside Magdalena Abrego's electric guitar tone — wooden, ancient and thick with mystic fuzz — which girds the churning centerpiece of this jazz-trained, indie-rock duo's cheekily titled Greatest Hits. Mali Obomsawin, a bassist and songwriter from the Odanak First Nation, unfolds the melody like a flower that could bloom or bite, but everything's dimly lit to burst like Starflyer 59's own 1995 surfy shoegaze masterpiece, Gold. Headbang while you weep.
Reyna Tropical, "Cartagena"
Speaking of guitar, Fabi Reyna's touch is so nimble — yet so tactile — on six strings. It's the kind of guitar play that feels like play, as if her sunny melodies could suddenly release a flock of vibrantly colored birds at any moment. Named for the coastal Caribbean city of Colombia, the polyrhythmic chill of Reyna Tropical's "Cartagena" yearns to heal from grief through its soothing landscape: "Ay, que me cargue la corriente / Que me acaricie el ambient."
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