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Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam “A 1000 Times” (From “I Had a Dream That You Were Mine”)
The Walkmen, Hamilton Leithauser’s old band, went into an indefinite hiatus in 2013 after a consistently stellar run of records. His partner on this project, Rostam Batmanglij, is the former multi-instrumentalist of Vampire Weekend, a band that deftly fused ‘60s Britpop, 80’s synth pop, and West-African highlife-by-way-of Paul Simon. An outlier in The Walkmen’s discography was a song-for-song cover of the John Lennon-produced Harry Nilsson record “Pussy Cats”; a seeming throwaway goof that actually reads now as a precursor to the current Leithauser and Rostam’s pairing.
Preoccupations “Memory” (From “Preoccupations”)
Preoccupations, formerly known as Viet Cong, have now released two excellent albums of heady, post-punk indebted rock in as many years. Their new one reminds me a bit of Comsat Angels, one of my all-time favorite bands, and a group seemingly lost to time (their discography is, unfortunately, absent from popular streaming sites). The lengthy “Memory” contains an exhilarating middle section where the band is joined by Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner on vocals, before dissipating, sweaty and spent, into an ambient haze.
Leonard Cohen “You Want It Darker” (From the upcoming album of the same name)
2016 will be remembered as a year when we lost far too many musical titans. David Bowie was more aware than his fans that the shaking of this mortal coil was imminent, giving us one last masterpiece in “Blackstar”. Leonard Cohen released “You Want It Darker” on his 82nd birthday, and while Cohen must be equally aware of his mortality, he confronts it with a blackened wit befitting a man who has made a long career of walking in the shadows, sing-speaking dark poetry all along the way. Undercutting self-pity with lines like “I struggled with some demons/ They were middle class and tame/ I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim”, Cohen continues to make his case as one of our most enduring artists and someone I hope will be with us for many more years.
Danny Brown featuring Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, and Earl Sweatshirt “Really Doe” (From “Atrocity Exhibition”)
Danny Brown named his stellar new album after a Joy Division song that was itself named after a J.G. Ballard book. Joy Division’s Ian Curtis was an expert at detailing the dark isolation felt from baring your soul to the young punks, while Ballard wrote controversial, transgressive and cathartic prose about how mass media slowly rips apart an individual. If any modern hip-hop artist can embody those influences, it’s Brown: who walks a line between being the court jester and self-evisceration. On this posse cut, however, Brown shows how adept he is at sharing the stage with his peers, over a dark and grimy beat by fellow Detroit MC and producer Black Milk. Brown’s new album is out on Warp Records, the British label famous for experimental electronic giants like Aphex Twin, Autechre, and Boards of Canada, and the marriage makes sense.
Bobby Kapp and Matthew Shipp “Money” (From “Cactus”)
Drummer Bobby Kapp has been a workhorse in jazz circles since the mid-60’s, playing with the transcendent Pharaoh Sanders among many others, while Matthew Shipp is one of the most respected jazz pianists of his generation. They team up on “Cactus”, an album of particularly inspired improvisation that finds the duo locked in a tight and expressive conversation with one another.
SPOTIFY PLAYLIST: TIMELY TUNES, VOL. 21
1. Harry Nilsson “All My Life”
2. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam “A 1000 Times”
3. Fleetwood Mac “Straight Back”
4. David Bowie “Who Can I Be Now?”
5. Preoccupations “Memory”
6. Echo & the Bunnymen “Bring On The Dancing Horses”
7. Bob Dylan “Not Dark Yet”
8. Leonard Cohen “You Want It Darker”
9. The Bruce Springsteen Band “The Ballad of Jesse James”
10. The Montereys “Get Down”
11. J Dilla featuring D’Angelo, Common, and Karriem Riggins “So Far To Go”
12. Danny Brown featuring Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, and Earl Sweatshirt “Really Doe”
13. Mobb Deep “Give Up the Goods (Just Step)”
14. Ibrahim Maalouf “Movement II – Alf Leila Wa Leila”
15. Bobby Kapp and Matthew Shipp “Money”
16. Dave Burrell “Oozi Oozi”
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