Friday, February 1, 2013

MD Picks: Surf Rock, Blue Note & Mali

Fidlar- Fidlar
Much like albums released last year by Japandroids and Natural Child, this is a record of gleefully raucous rock & roll hedonism made by folks having a good time for folks having a good time. Fidlar hails from LA and they like to surf, skate, drink (cheap!) beer and rock out. The music is punk but it's not sneering. It's loud but still inviting. On "No Waves" singer Zac Carper informs us that he feels "like shooting up" but he also feels "like a grandpa." This album is a whole lotta fun.
Recommended Tracks: "Cheap Beer", "No Waves", "Max Can't Surf"

More after the jump

The Growlers- Hung at Heart
Another SoCal group of surfing rockers, The Growlers released a noticeably less polished cassette, Beach Goth on Burger last year. This album contains some very pretty surf-pop melodies, though, like the excellent album cover, there is darkness surrounding the beach-y vibe. A country influence shines through on the melancholy "Living in a Memory." And "It's No Use" is slowed down, warped and psychedelic. Also, "Use Me For Your Eggs" is one of the best song titles I've heard lately.
Recommended Tracks: "Living in a Memory", "It's No Use", "Use Me For Your Eggs"

José James- No Beginning No End
If you're tired of waiting impatiently for the long anticipated D'Angelo comeback, José James can provide a much needed fix of smooth soul/jazz/hip-hop. The gifted singer is signed to Blue Note, so as you would expect the arrangements on the album are exquisite: low key, but still avant-garde, allowing James breathing room to do his thing. James's father was a saxophone player in Panama, and he clearly has a great ear for instrumentation. This is his fourth release, but his first on Blue Note. More soul than anything, James may be lumped together with the current R&B renaissance, but he's definitely got more of an old school sound than many of his contemporaries. He spoke to Leon Ware, Marvin Gaye's collaborator, before making this album. Pianist/producer Robert Glasper and Moroccan Berber/French singer Hindi Zahra also appear on the record.
Recommended Tracks: "It's All Over Your Body", "Trouble"

Ballaké Sissoko- At Peace
As I previously wrote about here, the current situation in Mali is very precarious and that is especially the case for music, which Islamist groups have banned in the North. Mali happens to be one of the greatest countries in the world for music, and Ballaké Sissoko has long been one of its masters. He plays the kora, a harp with 21 strings and comes from a traditional Malian musical heritage, as his father, Djelimady Sissoko was a noted griot, or storyteller/musician. The title of this album clearly refers to the war currently raging in Mali, and the music here is indeed exceptionally peaceful and beautiful.
Recommended Tracks: "Maimouna", "Boubalaka"

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