Every month I bring you a round up of my favorite recently-released tracks. I don’t typically chose the artists and songs to a theme, but this month I found that track by track, one started to emerge: each of the artists whose work resonated the most shape a conventional sound into their own unique blend of influences and styles. So read on for some ethereal pop, psychedelic jazz, southern shoegaze, covers, remixes, and naturally, Blink 182 reimagined as a children’s bedtime lullaby.
Briana Marela – “Surrender”
(from All Around Us)
This, in my book, is a perfect pop album. I urge you to head over to her Bandcamp page ASAP, where the full album is streaming, since who knows how long that’s going to be up there. Briana Marela, who is based in Seattle, seems to beat Beach House at their own game. Her pristinely recorded vocals, complemented with a truly organic sounding electronic musical backdrop, bring to mind elements of Múm, Anne Garner and Riceboy Sleeps (which is an obvious comparison given Alex Somers produced the album!).
Natural Information Society & Bitchin’ Bajas – “Anemometer”
Worlds collide. For Seinfeld, that can only be a bad thing, but for these two juggernauts of 70s-inspired psychedelic jazz and new age, it can lead to one heck of a ride! Out on Drag City, the sacred, undisputed home for collaborations like this, Automaginary is a wild trip soundtracked by airy vintage synthesizers, Olympian flutes, and African frame drums and guimbri. Like Popul Vuh jamming with Cymande. I love the meeting of minds between Joshua Abrams, who leads the Natural Information Society as anywhere between a trio and a big band, and Cooper Crain who is perhaps best known for his work with old-school krautrockers, Cave. Both based in Chicago, both the centers of a very volcanic pit of innovative musical activity.
Thayer Sarrano – “Hide My Health”
People have called Thayer Sarrano’s new album, Shaky, a “southern-psych-dreamland” and that sums it up pretty well. Her music does kinda resonate like shoegazing with a twang, but there’s a maximalist epic thing going on, too. It’s rare that a singer is able to balance synthesizers with a slow, Southern vocal palette, and it’s almost like inventing a new language of song. Well, here it is, and it’s gorgeous! Shaky is one of those albums that you put on in the background, expecting to let it pass over you, but a couple songs in you end up putting the magazine down and just listening instead.
Ruby Amanfu – “Shadow On The Wall (Brandi Carlile cover)”
(from Standing Still)
If this week’s theme is artists who shape a conventional sound into their own unique blend of influences and styles, then Ruby Amanfu fits right in. Even though her new album Standing Still is a covers record, she makes every one of these tunes (from Bob Dylan to Kanye West) her own. Amanfu was born in Ghana, grew up in Nashville and attended the Berklee College of Music, so yeah, she’s definitely got depth to draw from. Her career has been on the up and up ever since Jack White enlisted her to sing a heartfelt duet in 2012, but you get the feeling she’s been turning heads her whole life.
Offshore – “Off Peak”
Offshore was the nom de plume of Scottish producer Ewan Robertson, who passed away in December 2012 while undergoing heart surgery due to a disorder known as Marfan Syndrome. This track reflects his creative approach to rhythmic and textural production, working in a pastiche of garage and hip-hop with a refreshingly emotive bent. Ewan was working on this final album at the time of his passing, and the rest was pieced together posthumously by his label along with several collaborators including Amon Tobin, Ikonika, and Slugabed, among others, all of whom knew him intimately. The album came out last month, together with a full album of remixes, and all profits will be donated by his label Big Dada to benefit the Marfan Trust. Sadly, we would be the same age if Ewan were alive today. I was and may always be a fan of his music, so a big thanks goes out to everyone who made this release possible!
Honorable Mentions: Children’s Albums!
Here’s one you’ll find entertaining. Children’s music fan favorite, Raffi, released the first single off his forthcoming album, Owl Singalong two weeks ago. The song is called “Green Dream” and it seems the bearded bard has turned to the musical form of reggae to help spread his environmental message among the kids.
So that made me think, I wonder what other children’s albums have been released this month?
And one million thank yous to the strange, unnatural instinct that made me ponder that question, for there could not have been writ a better ending to this edition of What I’ve Been Digging Lately. Rockabye Baby!, a band that records lullaby versions of anthemic pop songs and albums, has just released their album of Blink 182 songs converted to lullabies. Here’s “Feeling This” (there’s a purchase link in the video info):
And just for the sake of comparison, here’s the original song/video:
Did we miss your favorite recent release? Share it in the comments below, and then check out the full “What I’ve Been Digging Lately” series!