It’s been a great week for music, hasn’t it? Even if (like me) you didn’t make it to SXSW this year. We got two unexpected tracks from a Thom Yorke, Burial, and Four Tet collaboration, and also new music from The National. The National tune is titled “Think You Can Wait” and it was recorded by the boys for the soundtrack for the film Win Win. It features a beautiful, soft but brooding melody and guest vocals by Sharon Van Etten supporting The National’s Matt Berninger’s oak-infused crooning. Check it out:
You may have already heard, but yesterday a new limited edition (only 300 copies) 12″ record featuring a two-track collaboration of Burial, Four Tet and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke was announced, made available for sale, and promptly sold out before low-quality radio-cuts of the tracks were leaked to the Internet. Well, if you missed out on the vinyl and want to hear “Ego” again, this time without the radio voice-overs, we’ve got your hookup. It’s cause we love you.
Weeknd are a mysterious Canadian R&B duo. Mysterious in the sense that there isn’t a lot of info available about them in terms of a bio at the moment. What I do know is they’ve been promoted by Drake and at least one of their tracks was produced by Toronto producer Doc McKinney. And that’s it. The reason I care is because they’ve released some of the most mesmerizingly dark and sexy R&B I’ve heard in a long time. The tracks “What You Need”, for example, feature sparse melodies with slow, punchy rhythms alongside scandalously prurient lyrics: i.e. “he’s what you want / I’m what you need” and “I love it when you look down at me / and I’m looking up at you.”
Over in the Kitchen today Kasey is featuring spelt and carrot-ginger cupcakes. They are so good they are like magic. And those funky, maple cream cheese topped bites deserve an appropriately delicious and funky pairing. And thankfully, I’ve been sitting on the perfect album for the occasion: Charles Bradley‘s debut album No Time For Dreaming. I rarely spend much time discussing an artist’s bio (preferring to let the music speak for itself), but Charles Bradley certainly has one of the more interesting background stories that I’ve read in awhile, and so his story is worth retelling. Charles spent most of his childhood living on the streets of Brooklyn. But ever since Bradley’s sister took him as a kid to see James Brown perform live at the Apollo, Bradley dreamed of becoming a musician just like Brown. But, of course, he didn’t achieve his dream over night.
In order to make something of himself, he signed up for a program that placed people from under-privileged families with careers, where he learned to work as a chef. He left New York and made his way out West, ultimately spending many years working as a chef in California. He wasn’t making the big bucks, but he could make ends meet and play music on the side. Tragically, every time he seemed to catch a break, things in his life seemed to spin out of control. This was true in his career, his personal life and in his second life as a musician. It wasn’t until he was 51 years old that he started connecting with audiences while performing a James Brown routine at clubs in Brooklyn under the name Black Velvet. He was doing well, but just when things were looking up, his life took another a nasty turn when his nephew shot and killed his brother. Charles was devastated and began to fall into despair reflecting on the cruelties of the world around him. During this time Gabriel Roth of Daptone records met Bradley and introduced him to fellow musician and songwriter Thomas Brenneck. Brenneck and Bradley became friends, and when Brenneck heard Bradley’s story, he encouraged him to begin writing his own songs based around his life experiences. No Time For Dreaming was the result of this experience, including the standout single “The World (Is Going Up In Flames).” And that is how at 62-years old, Charley Bradley came to release his debut record.
And while, Bradley’s background is compelling, I assure you it is the quality of his music is the reason you want to check this album out. Personally, I knew nothing about his background when I first heard the album. I stumbled upon “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)” and just presumed it was some classic soul/funk track from the 60’s that I had somehow missed out on. But it was so good I wanted – I just needed – to hear more. And as I started to find more music from Bradley, I realized, to my surprise, that this wasn’t an old overlooked gem, but a contemporary musician who had just released his refreshing debut album. And I find it even more refreshing that Bradley isn’t just adopting the sound of another era for purely stylistic reasons or because it is en vogue, but because it is the sound of the music Bradley loves and has loved since he was a child. It is a phenomenal album with soul, funk, rhythm and blues – not to mention that clean, pure analog recording sound that Daptone does so well. Give it a listen and fall in love.
Here it is, the Turntable Kitchen March 2011 mix. It came together surprisingly quickly, and yet I feel like it is one of my favorite mixes I’ve put together in awhile. It is certainly eclectic, but that undoubtedly reflects the fact that my mind has been suffering from musical attention deficit disorder. I’ve been listening to more than my usual share of underground hip hop recently (because I’ve been exposed to a lot of good underground hip hop recently) which is reflected on the mix below with great tracks by Mainframe, Johnson & Jonson (which is Blu + Mainframe), Shabazz Palaces, Phred Diamond, and Das Racist. But I also can’t quit listening to the latest albums by Radiohead and Motel Beds, and the same goes for the latest tracks from Work Drugs. Also, I’ve been receiving some great new finds in the inbox including the tracks featured here by Hong Kong in The 60s, Alexander and the Eureka Birds. And I’ve spent a lot of time going through old used vinyl records having recently scored a number of great records by David Bowie, Elvis Costello and The Miracles. So eclectic this may be, but it definitely is a snapshot of what has been filling the space between my ears this month.
And you may also notice that it is a relatively upbeat mix. And why shouldn’t it be? After all, things have been good for Turntable Kitchen recently: we partnered with our favorite print magazine (Wired) for a podcast, we co-hosted two nights of culinary and musical tribute (and our first physical events) for Noise Pop, and this past weekend we finished filming our TV debut with a segment for the Cooking Channel (we’ll be on (Food)ography!). Sure, I’m growing a little impatient waiting for that email from Radiohead offering us the exclusive on their next album, but I’m sure it will come any day now.
Mmm hmm. We got a new FlyLo track this morning (thanks for the heads up Pitchfork), and I can assure you it is going to be part of the soundtrack to my day. It is skittering and mysterious as it slowly unfurls in a humming and glimmering haze. It’s definitely on the more laid-back vibe than some of Flying Lotus’ other tracks: the sound of the calm after the storm.
I’m definitely feeling the laid-back vibe on this very chill track by up-and-coming underground hip hop virtuoso Blu (a.k.a. Johnson Barnes). This is an example of what we mean when we talk about good hip hop around here. And is it just me or is this dude totally copping all the best samples now days? Buy the Amnesia EP from iTunes.
In case you’ve ever wondered, Kasey and I do not have the exact same tastes in music. We have overlapping tastes in music, but there are some things we don’t agree on. For example, Kasey can’t stand Radiohead (my favorite band), and although she doesn’t “dislike them” she thinks The National are too depressing (my second favorite band). Conversely, when she is commuting to work, at the gym or at any distance over 500 yards away from me, she’ll occasionally listen to radio stations that feature DJ remixes of pop songs that would make me uncontrollably shudder and sneer. But more often than not we agree on most music. For example, we both love Sufjan Stevens, Typhoon, Iron & Wine, Cults, M.I.A., Yeasayer, the Decemberists, etc. We both also love Thao with The Get Down Stay Down and Mirah – so you can imagine how happy we were to discover that they were doing an album together. And I’m even happier to report that the collaboration is great.
The album opens with the clattering and percussive “Eleven”, a track that not only marries Thao and Mirah’s distinctive voices and songwriting, but also folds Merrill Garbus (a.k.a. tUnE-yArDs) into the mix. Of all of the tracks on the album it certainly stands out as the most unlike anything either Mirah and Thao have ever written before – and I’d guess that is a result of Garbus’ contributions. If for any reason this track isn’t your cup of tea, don’t fret: the better portion of the album doesn’t stray quite as far from the prior work of either songwriter. For example, the second track, “Folks,” is clearly a Thao track – and not just because of the vocals, but also because of the distinctive songwriting. Similarly, the track “Little Cup” sounds to me like it is clearly a song penned by Mirah. And on other tracks, the album bears fruit that sounds exactly like the collaboration fans of both artists are probably hoping for. “Rubies and Rocks”, for example, falls a little less clearly into one songwriter’s camp or the other, and is another highlight for me, boasting smooth horns, a slinking bassline, light rattling percussion and Mirah’s beautiful vocals. As does the fantastic “How Dare You” and the warbly and fun “Likable Man.” The track “Teeth” is a catchy Thao number featuring distant, organic percussion (snaps, claps, etc.) and bright harmonies and nimble acoustic guitar. “Spaced Out Orbit” is a stunning highlight on the album with Mirah lyrically channeling a Ziggy Stardust Bowie-vibe and gorgeous acoustic-guitar anchored space jam: “They say now take all of your dust, all your love and trust, we’re sending you upon your final mission, and then I found myself in orbit, and the last thing I observed, the last words that I heard were ‘Don’t forget to send in your transmission, we expect you to report on your condition.’ Then I saw something that resembled that place where we were together.”
I’ve chosen this album to pair with Kasey’s Buttered Sea Bass and Clams in Chickpea Broth recipe. It was tremendously delicious. One of my favorite recipes we have recently prepared. Kasey described the dish as one that “looks beautifully effortless, earthy and warm.” The same could be said for Thao and Mirah’s album. They both make writing beautiful, evocative music sound so easy, and as a result Thao and Mirah sounds like it was probably as much fun to write and record as it sounds to listen to. The album is scheduled for an April 26 release date. Until then, if you are anxious for more from the duo, check out the videos and pics we took when they performed together nearly a year ago for Noise Pop 2010 (link).
Happy Fat Tuesday! Yup, in case you live somewhere that doesn’t really celebrate Carnival season, be aware, it is Mardi Gras time! To be honest, it would be easy to miss the holiday in San Francisco where folks seem more interested in prepping for St. Patrick’s Day than feasting on fatty foods and drink. Nonetheless, Kasey and I are fans of Fat Tuesday, so even if you also are living in a city that doesn’t have a great Mardi Gras celebration, we wouldn’t want you to feel left out. So what have we got for ya? Well, Wired Magazine asked Kasey and I to take over their podcast for Fat Tuesday, and of course we said “YES!” So you can download the podcast for free from their iTunes page or stream/download it below. On it, you’ll hear a lot of great Mardi Gras and New Orleans inspired music paired with the Cajun-inspired recipes that Kasey is featuring in the Kitchen. Yup, the music on the playlist is primarily based around New Orleans and Louisiana-based musicians including today’s Single Serving, one of New Orleans best up and coming new indie bands, Generationals. This NOLA-based band formed in 2008 by ex-Eames Era guitarists/songwriters Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer. Their sophomore album, Actor-Caster, is scheduled for release this March 19. As a teaser, the band released the whimsical “Greenleaf” as the album’s first single. The track features bright, loose keys, a lethargic bassline and a fun, playful melody. I can’t wait to hear some more!
Things are slow around here today because Kasey and I were a little preoccupied last night preparing a special related to Fat Tuesday. But the music world doesn’t stop just because we are doing other things. For example, about three hours ago Robin Pecknold, a.k.a. the guy from Fleet Foxes, decided to release a trio of beautiful acoustic cuts that he had recorded via the Fleet Foxes Twitter account. He first noted tweeted: “So, I recorded three acoustic songs a couple weeks ago in LA with my friend Noah. One is a duet with my friend Ed Droste from the amazing band Grizzly Bear, one is just a new solo jam, and one is a cover.” He concluded by noting “These aren’t Fleet Foxes songs, but I didn’t know where else to disseminate it. Pretty mellow jams.” The cover is “Where Is My Wild Rose” and was originally recorded by New Zealand musician Chris Thompson. Check em out:
I love it when things just work out. Twenty minutes ago I was trying to figure out what I was going to post about tonight, and then one of my favorite artists – James of We Are Trees – sent me his latest swoon-worthy new single from his soon-to-be-released Girlfriend EP. So, yeah, not only do I know what I’m going to post about tonight, but I have an amazing new track for the post. Like “fresh from being remastered” new. And there is a lot of cool stuff going on for the new album. For example, Nee has explained that, in part, the EP is about continuity. Like his preceding EP, Girlfriend was recorded in Chesapeake, VA, and he was again joined by Josiah Schlater (percussion) and Rocky Capizzi (violins). And, once again it is a personal album for Nee. The songwriting is sincere, evocative and lovingly constructed. Which makes sense as James explained that recording Girlfriend was a cathartic experience for him, and finishing it has helped him complete a “circle” that began with the Boyfriend EP, and thereby end a chapter in his life.
You’ll of course also probably notice the corresponding titles of the EPs: Boyfriend / Girlfriend. In this way, the album is also about duality: the yin and yang of things. And this is apparent in the music as well. Many of the colors from Nee’s prior sonic palette are again effectively used here to breathtaking effect (including orchestral songwriting, leathery percussion, crisply reverbating guitar and James’ billowy, smoke-light vocals), but compared to Boyfriend the hues are different, the brush strokes more rapid and less controlled. Like the male and the female, the two EPs were envisioned ascorresponding parts that are alike and yet different. Girlfriend will be available on iTunes and on vinyl from Collective Crowd Records.