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A Year in Music

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I have no idea how to start, so I just will. The music I listened to in 2017 was mostly influenced by my Mom’s accident and the half year I spent with her in hospitals and rehab before she died a few months ago.

When she couldn’t talk, she might sing if I played the right song from a Bluetooth speaker I kept bedside. She remembered lyrics on days she couldn’t remember anything else. We’d listen to songs from her youth, songs her parents loved, songs she taught me to love. Hundreds of songs from Dorsey to Sinatra, Mathis to Fleetwood Mac, The Skyliners to Chaka Kahn, Santana to Streisand, Beatles to Radiohead. I could write a book about how Mom’s taste in music influenced my life. I spent decades burning her CDs to return the favor, the last being A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead. Thom Yorke’s voice spoke to her. To us. 

I found myself adding those songs and more to a three hour mix I played at her funeral, from that same Bluetooth speaker set behind a meticulously curated photo collage of Mom’s life. The room was so crowded with friends and family that you couldn’t hear a note of it. Somehow I was fine with that. Music was between Mom and I, anyway, and I had my own little moment weeks later when I pressed eject on her car stereo and A Moon Shaped Pool popped out. I imagined Mom driving down Amboy Road to the beauty parlor softly singing “Daydreaming.”

Somehow I still managed to buy about thirty records this year, my hands down favorite being Soft Sounds from Another Planet by Japanese Breakfast. I listened to it every day driving back and forth over the Verrazano Bridge to see Mom. It wasn’t lost on me that their previous record Psychopomp was influenced by the passing of singer/songwriter Michelle Zauner’s Mom. Soft Sounds from Another Planet is beautiful and smart and vulnerable. I wore that record out. “Diving Woman,” a bit of shoegaze perfection, helped me over the bridge more than once this year.

“When she couldn’t talk, she might sing…”

Women ruled my playlists in 2017. Super talented songwriters like Julien Baker and Melina Duterte (of Jay Som) provided a depth that was totally missing from popular radio. Full disclosure; I dug some of what commercial pop had to offer this year, I can’t front. There’s a reason “Despacito” and “Shape of You” were ubiquitous. But while the rest of the world was feasting on the butt of Cardi B, I was happily listening to Everything Turned to Color and Sunflower Bean.

Sure, I made time for old standbys. Spoon never disappoints, and their record Hot Thoughts is kick-ass front to back. There were also great records from Randy Newman, Roger Waters, Jay-Z, BeckThe Shins, Robyn Hitchcock, Melvins, and others I really got into this year. Reissues from Radiohead, Paul McCartney, and The Beatles were also in heavy rotation, as was the Lin-Manuel Miranda penned track Ben Franklin recorded by The Decemberists. Some key songs from those records and more below. I promise it isn’t all depressing. I need candy, too.

 

Brooklyn's own MC Krispy E has an opinion about most things you can put in your ear, eye, and mouth holes.

Music

Janita’s New Song “Bliss I Once Had This”

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Fresh from her residency at NYC’s Mercury Lounge, ECR Music Group recording artist Janita releases the new single “Bliss I Once Had This” on October 18, and we have the premiere.

The guitar-forward track, which you can hear below, is a notable change from Janita’s last record, Didn’t You, My Dear?, also produced and recorded by label owner and musician Blake Morgan.

Janita describes the song as “a declaration of joyful defiance in darkening times.” The track taps into the moment when empathy meets apathy, when we’re as likely to question “Who am I to feel happy now?” as we are to throw up our hands and say “Never mind.”

Janita and Blake share guitar duties on the track, rounded out by Miles East on drums and percussion and Justin Goldner on bass.

Janita’s last show this year is in her hometown of Helsinki at the legendary Tavastia-klubi on November 10.

Using a host of pen names, Eric Curran has been blogging in one form or another for well over 10 years. He's a partner at One Track Mine, and also runs the blog Jealous Foodies.

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Pixies Straighten Up and Fly Right

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The Pixies demoed over 20 originals and some covers in their upstate NY sessions with producer Tom Dalgety last year, whittling them down to 12 tracks for the new gothic record Beneath the Eyrie. Much of the warts-and-all recording process was captured in the excellent 12-part lead-up It’s a Pixies Podcast. You’ll find no other iconic band pulling the curtain back on their process with the same amount of honesty.

Dalgety has a way of smoothing over Pixies’ rough edges to sometimes exquisite effect. Other times you may miss the rust and crunch of producers Steve Albini and Gil Norton. But it’s not 1988, and this is an older, wiser band with adult aches and pains – and a sudden interest in being less obtuse. Some fans may not be ready to hear Black Francis sing straight-forward lines like “I’m ready for love” and “Last night I was driving around, nothing to do, thinking of you.” Fans of Frank Black, however, may be better prepared. Personas are a bitch. So are rigid expectations.

Folks like to talk about a Pixies “sound,” and there is something certainly recognizable as that, but the sonic arcs between albums only extend a record or two. Surfa Rosa and Doolittle share a sound, but there’s less in common between Doolittle and Bossanova, or between Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde. Indie Cindy (made 23 years later) does pick up where Trompe left off, but the next two records, Head Carrier and Beneath the Eyrie, find the band moving beyond that entirely, even though the DNA is most assuredly Pixies.

Eyrie kicks off with the bubbling “In the Arms of Mrs. Mark of Cain,” a track with no real precedent in their catalog, but another that proves drummer David Lovering is the skeleton holding the body up. Things get a little more traditionally Pixies with “On Graveyard Hill,” even if the lyrics are less esoteric than fans have grown to expect. This rolls into “Catfish Kate,” a downright story song with Black playing narrator Blackjack Hooligan. The track is one of the few on Eyrie to employ that tried-and-true loud/quiet/loud aesthetic.

Guitarist Joey Santiago lets it rip on “Ready for Love,” bringing his new-found sobriety into focus. Perhaps in deference to Joey, the band’s upcoming tour will be dry – no drugs or alcohol. I know it’s not as simple as that, and perhaps Black’s marital woes have something to do with cleaning up for the tour. But wine is all over this record (and the podcast), especially in the tipsy chorus of the Tom Waits-ish “This Is My Fate” and in the poetic refrain of “Silver Bullet.”

“The shade is drawn with stem and vine
Burned in the flame of a man condemned
With venom wine and golden dawn
A silver bullet in the chamber turning”

Bassist extraordinaire Paz Lenchantin gets writing credit on the ’90s-sounding “Long Rider” and sister track “Los Surfers Muertos,” which pay homage to a fellow surfer that lost her life carving the waves. “St. Nazaire” throws a raucous bone to fans, with a story steeped in the type of seaweed-covered mythology Pixies die-hards know well. It’s not as delightfully unhinged as “Planet of Sound” or “Blue Eyed Hexe,” but it’s a welcome bit of aggro.

Inspired by Black nearly driving into a deer on the way to the studio, the sprawling “Daniel Boone” slowly swells into a version of Pixies that fans have yet to meet. There’s a slow beauty to the track that resembles some of the quieter moments on Indie Cindy, but not hardly as compressed.

Eyrie ends with another ‘tranquilizing drink,’ “Death Horizon,” a mid-tempo ditty that puts the finishing touches on what may very well be a break-up record for Black Francis. In that way, it feels like Black has shed his personas and fronted the band as his true self, Charles Thompson, for the first time. It’s who he was all along.

Using a host of pen names, Eric Curran has been blogging in one form or another for well over 10 years. He's a partner at One Track Mine, and also runs the blog Jealous Foodies.

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Music

RAPSODY – EVE

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Eve must’ve bit into an apple off of the LYRICAL tree with the type of seeds Rapsody is spitting on this album! Each of the 16 branches from this sequoia is worth your time and attention. She’s praising, reflective, educating and entertaining at the same damn time!

The words that constantly sprout from the soil of her nurturing production team lets us know the work has been put in. The fruits of her labor are abundantly clear when you grasp the content of her art musically and visually. A perfect example of this combination is on full display in Ibithaj feat. D’Angelo and GZA.

But her cameos don’t end there! The features in this forest make sense and keeps the proper balance within this ecosystem. The biggest challenge you’ll find when camping out in these woods will be choosing the best collaboration.

Oprah feat Leikeili47 is the type of the track that will keep your necks nodding from beginning to end. But I can easily say the same thing about Maya feat K. Roosevelt which is also a certified banger!

There’s more than a handful to mention here, but I want you to do yourself a favor and find those other gems after you cop the album. Here’s a hint…Rapsody also trades bars upon bars on a couple of other standout tracks with J. Cole and the Queen herself…Latifah!

Despite Rapsody’s last outing (Laila’s Wisdom) being great in itself, she managed to raise the bar yet again with Eve. Her words are inspiring, refreshing and unapologetically poignant. EXACTLY what we need to hear right now!

Keep your ears and eyes open for BIG KRIT’s “From The South With Love Tour” with special guests Rapsody & Domani Harris. It’s sure to be as memorable as the first offering below from her gift basket of treats.

HB aka The World Traveler is fully committed to exploring and sharing with you what the world has to offer in travel and music. Get on board and enjoy the ride!

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