Thursday, July 23, 2015

Summer Party Mix: Short Takes, Singles, Etc.

It's summer, prime mixtape season, so here are some short takes on recent albums and singles with party potential that should soundtrack your next shindig.

Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment - Surf While we wait for Chance The Rapper to follow up Acid Rap we can enjoy this sunny and eclectic group effort from him and his buddies (some of them famous, like Busta Rhymes and Janelle Monae). Perhaps some of the positive vibrations are little more than bromides ("Just be you!") but it's hard not to be infected by the joyous spirit that runs through Surf. With darkness emanating from TV's and headlines everywhere this is a welcome dose of sweetness. This is free on iTunes so don't hesitate.

Beck - Dreams Well, he said the next one would be different. After the triumph of the GRAMMY-winning Morning Phase (also my #2 album from 2014), the world was Beck's oyster and he's found a new direction: polished dance-pop. While that might make you think that this notorious appropriator is being cheesy and ironic, Dreams is beautifully produced and seems completely sincere. It's delightful. I think when he performs at the GRAMMY's next year, the Twittering masses will remember who he is.

Shamir - Call It Off This young singer/songwriter from Las Vegas is getting a lot of attention and rightfully so - he's bursting with talent. After a time playing country, he's thrown his lot in with a brand of stripped down electronic R&B that at its  best is irresistible. Call It Off is the most appealing song for me, an addictively danceable kiss off that will have you moving no matter where you are. Give his album Ratchet a try, too - there's some depth there. Shamir is one to watch.

Alekesam - All Is Forgiven I heard this haunting dub-inflected beaut on an episode of Don Cheadle's excellent House Of Lies. Turns out Alekesam is the duo of Sal Masekela and Sunny Levine, the respective offspring of Hugh Masekela and his collaborator Stewart Levine. So it's in their blood - get transfused.

Holly Herndon - Morning Sun A lot of the talk about Herndon focuses on her process. While it is interesting to learn how she uses natural and found sounds to create electronic textures, it doesn't always pay off for the listener. I could scold myself for a lack of commitment - or I could just dial up Morning Sun, the sleekest song on her album Platform. Who's going to pony up the remix? Breton - you in?

Vince Staples - Summertime OK, I know you can't dance to this moody one-off from Staples' interesting debut - but you need a song to listen to after (most of) your guests have left. Even if his ambition to "be Pink Floyd" is yet to be realized, the mere fact of it is to be celebrated. This could be forever, baby...

A$AP Rocky - LSD That Pink Floyd reference might make more sense on this woozy wonder (the Gaspar Noe-influenced video is aces, too). Can't say I've ever taken the A$AP world domination plan very seriously (RIP A$AP Yams), but Rocky keeps getting better. There's other good stuff on At.Long.Last.A$AP, too, but this is classic. 

Run The Jewels (feat. Cuz) - Bust No Moves Whaddya know, even El-P and Killer Mike are getting a little spacey. But Mike's verse is as down to earth as it gets on this great jam - originally a Record Store Day exclusive.

Raekwon (feat. Estelle) - All About You This lush gem has been floating around for a couple of years and is now a high point of the album Fly International Luxurious Art. It borrows some of its drama from the Isaac Hayes school - kudos to producer Jerry Wonda - and Rae and Estelle pair up nicely. While not a classic, there's other good stuff on the album as well. 

Alessia Cara - Here The borrowing from Isaac Hayes is more explicit in Here, as Cara draws on the same Ike's Rap sample that fueled trip-hop classics by both Tricky and Portishead. Here is an ode to introversion that I can relate to, but the passion in Cara's voice means she really wants to connect - and she does

Singers & Players - Reaching The Bad Man This dubby conqueror is just one of many great tracks on Sherwood At The Controls Vol. 1 1979-1984, a killer compilation of some of Adrian Sherwood's great post-punk productions. Singers & Players was Sherwood's super-group featuring Jamaican eminences (Mikey Dread, Bim Sherman) and British avant gardists (Ari Up, Keith Levene), a fruitful blend indeed. Want more? Grab this deadly mix from Test Pressing.

Jahdan Blakkamoore - Sweetest Ting The Guayana-born Blakkamoore has the perfect voice for post-dancehall digital reggae, burnished and powerful but capable of both delicacy and joy. This song is the purest dose of sunshine from his third album, Order Of Distinction, but there's more to love there and on his earlier records. 

Buena Vista Social Club - Lost And Found This mix of thrilling live performances and nearly top-flight outtakes is the perfect hit to quench your nostalgia for when nostalgic Cuban sounds burned up the airwaves. It's a really good time and can add spice to many a mix. Right now I'm hooked on Tiene Sabor, featuring the ever-magnificent Omara Portuondo.

Various Artists - Next Cut! Yet another devastating collection of reggae rarities from Pressure Sounds, focusing on sounds from Bunny "Striker" Lee & Friends. Take your pick for your mix. 

The Notations - Still Here (1967-73) NĂºmero Group has made their name with dozens of releases bringing obscure soul music to light, as they do on this great single-artist collection. The Notations might not be The Temptations but they had a lot to offer - one listen to I Can't Stop should make you a fan. 

Fetty Wap - Trap Queen I heard the executors of Francis Scott Key's estate petitioned to have this become the new American anthem, but Soulja Boy voted them down. Sour grapes, I say. 

Your Old Droog - Kinison There was a brief period where a dash of mystery had people wondering if this was Nas in disguise. Now we know he's his own man, as this pop-culture obsessed album demonstrates. He can be funny, as on Gentrify My Hood, or blithely vicious, as on Homicide. He does have some of Nas's crisp New York flow, which could make it easy for that legend to imagine biting some of the excellent beats by El RTNC and others - better be careful, boys. Also give an ear to The Nicest, a six-track EP that just came out. Busy man - get busy catching up.

Check out my playlist featuring all of these plus a few assists from the best records of the year. What's grooving you?

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