It has been a long while since I have written anything about what I’ve been listening and while this probably should be posted over at Candied Pop my absence there leaves me feeling like I should warm up here first.
Anyways, some backstory: with my new job I am finding that I have the chance to listen for hours on end with no peanut gallery to tell me to turn it down, off, or put something “new” on (read that last as play something that Clear Channel might). I’m finding myself becoming complete and total junkie having opened a second eMusic account for 100 tracks me to 190 in a 30 day period–for the math inclined it works out to be around 20 albums on average–but working 12+ hours a day means I can pretty much work through the list every two days. So while I may not have much time to write posts I have plenty of time for listening to music.
Virunga – Feet on Fire (1991)
Lately, I have been finding myself listening more and more to artists from Africa particularly artists working in a sound of classic Afropop. This album is smooth which does much to mask the insane 12/8 time signatures that they deftly weave in many of the songs. Listening to this album makes me wish that we had dance bands like this touring around New England as their steamy tropical sound would do much to take the bite out of the winter months.
Orchestra Baobob – A Night at Club Baobob (2006)
This album is spectacular and intoxicating. The beats hold a loping cumbia feel with a huge brass sections and a bright sawtooth edged guitar that winds around the songs. Add to that vocals that often remind me of a raw early Rai sound and you have an album that at once feels exotic but compels your feet to tap as best as you can to the crazed poly-rhythms. Ignore your friends who might refer to this album as “cigar chomping Cuban commie music” as they know little of geography, politics, or damn fine music.
Eric Agyeman – Highlife Safari (1994)
This is one of Gabriella’s favorite albums and when it comes on she does her charming little squat-thrust dance keeping time to the music better than I could ever hope to. She is on to something as this album is eminently danceable with its nimble bass lines, shuffling percussion, spiraling guitar lines, and shout and response vocals. Nothing passes the day better than dancing about the living with her while this album blasts from the stereo.
Souad Massi – Deb (Heart Broken) (2003)
Moving north on the continent by way of France is Souad Massi who, especially on this album, embodies the notion of World Fusion. On Deb (Heart Broken) you can hear Rai, Folk music of Europe (Spain and France), weepy cinematic string passages warm up the sound, and occasionally sprinklings of tabla to round out the percussion. This album is far more romantic and moody sounding than her 2005 effort and that likely is because of the heavy Rai and Flamenco influences. Toss this on after sunset and curl up with someone you love.
Herbert – Bodily Functions (2001)
I fell deeply and madly in love with 2006′s Score, as Management says, because it tickles my inner Chelsea boy. Since then I have been on a quest to get all of Herbert’s albums and this one has me just as inflamed with passion but for different reasons. While Score was a huge post-Broadway send up this one is darker and smokier carrying a sort of sophistication in its seeming ennui. This one is for when the clock rolls past midnight and you find yourself left alone with your thoughts, some warm, others pained, but each tinged with a helpless sense of romance.
Burial – Untrue (2007)
A couple of days I rolled past Ludlow in the hours before sunrise. The lights along the highway were extinguished and the valley was wrap in starless black with only the ruddy glow of sodium halide lights from the factories below to dot the landscape. Occasionally the sky would light up with blue columns of flame exploding from impossibly skinny stacks. Untrue is the soundtrack to that landscape. It is dark, moody, mechanical, cold, and distant yet in all that it retains a transcendent beauty. The machine like precision of the beats and the disembodied vocals that are layered and looped for texture make for an alien yet familiar sound. A sound that is at once primal, feeding our need for an incessant driving beat, and dystopian with the shell casings skittering across concrete and swelling synth pads that fill your head beyond capacity. Easily one of my favorite releases this year.