Photo: Janette Beckman
Singer-songwriter Jose James has a lot of jazz in his sound thanks to the longtime influence he has had from the genre and also the experience with performing with giants like Wynton Marsalis, McCoy Tyner and others. When he first started out, he was more of a jazz vocalist with urban tendencies than anything else. As the years passed, however, he has finally found his sound, which can be described as a blend of hip-hop and R&B with strong jazz undertones.
This is evidenced by two songs from his fourth disc, “No Beginning No End” (Blue Note). “It’s All Over Your Body” opens mostly with drums and percussion, and a soft bass line joins in shortly before James’ almost whispered baritone comes in. The instrumentation is subtle (with some brass added for good measure) so the listener focuses on his voice and the message he wants to deliver, while the blues-inflected “Trouble” feels like a classic Motown-era track without sounding dated. James’ delivery is straightforward, honest and refreshingly Auto tune-free. (Ernest Barteldes)
January 30 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 North Lincoln, (773)525-2501, 9pm. $15.
Who says busking on the New York City subway (or any mass transit platform where you can be heard) has no future? It was there that Queens-based Freelance Whales honed their skills playing folksy electronic music with unusual instruments (glockenspiel, banjos, xylophone) until they became indie-music darlings after the release of their debut “Weathervanes” back in 2009.
The band’s name comes from the band members’ perception that everyone in New York is a freelancer in one way or another (not sure if the folks down on Wall Street would agree with that). Their releases have been well received both by critics and fans, and some of their tunes have appeared in TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Chuck” and “Skins.” Their music seems a bit minimalist—drums are played with brushes, and their arrangements are both creative and subtle, which allows vocalist (and main songwriter) Judah Dadone to comfortably convey his message without having to scream over the sound. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Abram Sanders
With their flimsy drum machine loops, strumming guitar chords and ambient keyboard melodies reminiscent of New Order, Future Islands is the perfect music to play while crying your eyes out and knocking shit over in your apartment. Their music is pro-human; confessional songs that detail breakups and loss with an organic-sounding composition, which somehow makes it all better. And it seems to be working for them. Their last album, “On the Water” (2011) earned Future Islands word-of-mouth notoriety and recognition on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s almost impossible to properly comment on a music so mercurial that its performer can spread recordings over sundry tapes, records and digital pursuits without having followed a single path to its conclusion. M. Geddes Gengras, a multi-instrumentalist and electronics whiz from Los Angeles, is best understood through his relationship with the Not Not Fun crew and Sun Araw’s Cameron Stallones. That latter figure and Gengras recently headed to Jamaica and recorded alongside a roots group, famous for its work a few decades back. It’s not the resultant music that should help define Gengras—although it was as engaging a clutch of tracks as any to be issued during the past year—but the spirit of invention that went into the project. Toying with synthesizers and whatever vintage Moog is sitting around only has a finite shelf-life. Gengras is able to coax emotive swooning sounds from his electronic companions, pushing past whatever the instrument’s pioneers could have intended. Read the rest of this entry »
Several years after the rerelease of his two albums by Seattle’s Light in the Attic, Detroit native Sixto Rodriguez is taking another stab at reclaiming a fleeting fame. His second (or third) wind has been sponsored in part by the release of “Searching for Sugar Man,” a documentary film following a pair of the singer’s fans on a quest to locate him. Whatever the reason for the Midwesterner’s reemergence, aficionados of lost musicians and folks interested in seventies coulda-beens should take notice. Frequently referred to as the Rust Belt’s answer to Bob Dylan, Rodriguez’ recordings were gussied up by none other than Dennis Coffey, who added a sizable amount of production value to what could have been a handful of boring, strummed sing-alongs. Read the rest of this entry »
The only bad thing people say about Steve Albini is that he’s brash and opinionated. But hearing the music he’s played and recorded since the early eighties, that should have been assumed. What people don’t seem to take issue with is that everything from Rapeman to Big Black and song titles like “My Black Ass” aim at being controversial. Exerting that sort of effort just makes the attempts kinda lame. The song’s pretty good, though. After dispensing with drum machines, Albini, bassist Bob Weston and drummer Todd Trainer started working as Shellac during the early nineties, issuing a string of releases helping to define the latter-day Touch & Go sound. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the Pitchfork Festival’s best features is its ability to create ancillary events in the community. Of course, all these resulting shows and parties are just as packed as the festival, so hitting up any sort of entertainment can be burdensome. Pairing once-local comedian Hannibal Buress—yes, his parents named him that—with some of underground hip-hop’s most innovative producers rivals any grouping of performers at this year’s proper festivities. After a day filled with A$AP Rocky and BIG K.R.I.T., an instrumental interlude from the fingertips of former Chicagoan Jel should come in handy. Read the rest of this entry »
Maybe it matters how fast or slow a band plays. And maybe some intellectual reasoning behind it all makes the impulse to work in those tempos interesting. But Codeine feels like another band fondly remembered for what it meant to fans during the trio’s run during the early nineties rather than for any significant contributions to underground rock. Sure, bands and genre names crop up in the wake of the New York ensemble’s dissolution, but that doesn’t make the music too much more gripping. The pervasive downer aesthetic scrawled all over Codeine’s pair of long-players is charming in a dingy thrift-store kind of way. Read the rest of this entry »
Chance the Rapper could be considered an anomaly of sorts, a fresh face with a slight pinch of the past that, quite frankly, only became the past very recently, swept up in an onrushing subgenre that has surfaced seemingly out of nowhere with a ferocity and speed that is exhilarating. With most of Chicago’s burgeoning hip-hop clout being lavished upon the Drill Music scene, and rightfully so, Chance has become something of a throwback even as he walks in the door. Drill artists like King Louie, Chief Keef and Katie Got Bandz glide over heavily Trap-influenced beats; massive, stomping things with the subtlety and ferocity of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, set apart from their Southern brethren by the detached, calm delivery applied over them, which gives the entire genre a sense of mellow horror unlike anything else out there.
Chance avoids the Drill Music wave, riding instead with the clever, youthful exuberance of The Cool Kids and a tongue-in-cheek application of serious skill rivaling the likes of Curren$y. The beats on his 10Day mixtape show far more musical variety than the foundation-rattling pieces currently dominating the scene—including a daring sampling of the Isley Brothers’ “Between the Sheets” by Caleb James that manages to both pay homage to the original and largely avoid the inevitable Biggie comparisons—and Chance approaches them all with a sing-and-say flow that dips and soars and ducks and saunters, changing pace from wispy molasses to schoolyard clipped to the considerable speed of a semi-automatic.
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It seems that every year a new compilation gets sewn together displaying a unique slice of Lee Perry’s career—and somehow, each is entertaining. There are apparently so many different mixes and unreleased tracks in Perry’s history—even though his Kingston studio burned down and took tapes with it—that the deluge of albums isn’t set to slow. Read the rest of this entry »