Last week, we featured the first installment of What to Listen to Wednesday, a selection of what our various music critics have been enjoying the last seven days. This week, another diverse selection of tracks, from jazz verging on soft rock to a remembrance of a recently departed blues legend.
The Jan Hammer Group, "Don't You Know":
Almost a decade before he was setting the scene for Crockett and Tubbs, Jan Hammer was cutting nice little slices of Jazz Rock. I first heard this track earlier this year, and I was almost certain it was an Ariel Pink outtake. Nope, this is from 1977 and it still sounds breezy fresh today.
Honeyboy Edwards, "Sweet Home Chicago":
Sick as I was of this song after 15 years, few things make me more homesick for Chicago. I would still rather have found you a different song by which to remember Honeyboy Edwards, , who died last week at the age of 96. I was lucky to see him around town a few times when I lived there, and I especially remember what a joy it was to see him perform with Devil in a Woodpile in the late 90s. Those guys were so excited to be backing him; and he seemed thrilled to have been asked. He was the end of the living Delta Blues, I think—the last known living peer of Robert Johnson. I know someone will tell us otherwise if that's not the case.
Gem Club, "252"
Gem Club gives us this compelling, angelically soft track called "252". Arresting harmonies drift over the echoes of an angelically soft piano, and the result is breathtaking. I guarantee a few tears are shed when they perform this live. While this video looks like what happens when you shake an Atari, just ignore it and take a good, hard listen. Your blood pressure will drop, I promise.
Coconut Records, "West Coast":
Maybe I'm just excited that the new season of Bored to Death is just over a month away (and I am!), but this song by Coconut Records (aka Bored to Death star Jason Schwartzman) is back in heavy rotation these days, as it has been periodically since it was released in 2007. It's one of those songs that I can't seem to stop listening to over and over again once I start, and one of my favorite melancholy pop songs of the last five years.
I've been fortunate enough to do some traveling in the Northwest lately and the music I've been listening to is the perfect match for an actual breezy, pleasant summer weather. Vetiver, from San Francisco, performed an excellent set at Oregon's Pickathon festival earlier this month. The band closed with a cover of one of the best summer songs ever written, "The Swimming Song", by Loudon Wainwright III. Here's the version from the band's 2008 album Thing Of The Past:
BONUS MATERIAL! Loudon performs the song live:
EVEN MORE BONUS MATERIAL: A 2009 interview with Vetiver from the Tucson Weekly!
Christopher Paul Stelling, "Strange Darkness":
Christopher Paul Stelling is a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter who plays a beat-up guitar and makes incredibly lo-fi and intimate videos, like this one, where he's sitting on a rock in Prospect Park playing this gorgeously simple song in the sunlight. Also check out his cover of Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene."
Minor Suns, "Ravine":
This Las Vegas post-rock quartet often reminds me of a desert-scarred, sun-warped version of Slint, with interlocking guitars that are at once angular and lovely. "Ravine" is an instrumental track from the band's self-released, self-titled debut (which you can download for free at minorsuns.bandcamp.com), but this killer live version was shot and recorded at the band's rehearsal space. I could listen to this all day driving Highway 83 to Montezuma Pass.
Debbie Lyndsey, "Spells and Incantations":
Debbie Lyndsey, "Spells and Incantations" by danielgibsonaz
If everyone fully absorbed the style, class and noir-ish sophistication of this deep soul number by Debbie Lyndsey, what do you bet the world would be a better, sexier place? More love, less war, on the wings of a song. Pipe it in, subliminally, to the Senate and House of non-Representatives, and perhaps some cooperating would suddenly occur. It's worth a try.
K Ro-Ro separates the wheat from the chaff, takes the whole Destiny's Child thing to the next logical place, and lets the mens know she wants to see their equipment, please. Amazing.
Gonjasufi is a former San Diegan who now lives in Vegas for some reason, probably the city in this country where you'd least expect to find someone of his ilk. Of course, he doesn't really have an "ilk," insofar as Sufi muslim yoga instructors who make psychedelic rock music formed of equal parts eastern mysticism, hip-hop and Captain Beefheart aren't what you'd call a well-represented subset of people. This track, "Duet," tends more toward his hypnotically mellow side, and is accompanied by some nice visuals from the BBC series "Invisible Worlds." So tune in, turn on, and drop tha fuck out on your lunch break, so that when Todd from Accounting starts breaking your balls later in the afternoon, you can tell him that he's not even like, real, man.
This glitzy, paranoiac tour de force by Jay-Z closes off Watch the Throne in brutal fashion. Is it any wonder the album that found Jay admitting "I'm fucking depressed"—remember, he's married to Beyoncé and really, really rich—ends with this slice of throbbing, cracked disco? This is the sound of Apocalypse writ large and diamond-studded.