ot to, not to

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When James Blake first came on the scene, he was exactly what I needed to resolve my schizo relationship with modern R&B: tuneful and earnest with just enough glitch to appeal to my appetite for imperfection. Then he relied too much on his formula, as have numerous followers on, and things became predictable once again.

Along comes Ian Mugerwa – a/k/a ot to, not to – and his debut album of intimate, deconstructed R&B “experiments”, Goshen, on Nicolas Jaar’s Other People label. The compositions take turns evoking dirt-floor blues, avant-garde jazz, even Pablo-era Kanye. The unifying thread is Ian’s vocals which read as personal, hypnotic journal entries, sung/muttered/chanted as he carries us through his coming-of-age years.

This nuanced, eclectic effort could’ve easily veered into self-indulgent territory if it didn’t so clearly yearn to connect. It’s soul music in the most literal sense of the word. In fact, when recommending Goshen to a friend I said, “Listen closely.” It’s the best (and only) way to appreciate this album.

Sam’s Top 23 Songs of 2016

(Sequenced for flow – not ranking – purposes.)

Tyvek “Choose Once” (In the Red)
My single of the year, from my album of the year. So raw, so good.

Mass Gothic “Every Night You’ve Got to Save Me” (Sub Pop)
Family Sing-Along Song of the Year honors go to this raucous doo-wop jam.

DIIV “Under the Sun” (Captured Tracks)
Shining down from a shimmering crack in the clouds that hung over 2016.

A Tribe Called Quest “We the People…” (Epic)
I could have chosen any of a half dozen tracks off this album but this here’s the anthem, get your damn hands up.

Francis and the Lights w/ Bon Iver “Friends” (KTTF)
Alan Parsons meets auto-tuned R&B meets, well, Bon Iver.

KAYTRANADA “LITE SPOTS” (XL)
Half this song is impossible to dance to; the other half is impossible not to dance to.

De La Soul “Royalty Capes” (AOI)
I wish this album had been more fulfilling than my anticipation of it, but there are some real gems amidst the scattershot experiments. This one’s about why a guy can’t find vintage De La on any of the streaming services.

Homeboy Sandman “Heart Sings” (Stones Throw)
Homeboy Sandman w/ I Am Many “Real New York”
(Stones Throw)
Sometimes he rhymes slow, sometimes he rhymes quick.

Beach Slang “Spin the Dial” (Polyvinyl)
“I was born at the bottom
But I never belonged
I’m hardly ever right
But I’ve never been wrong”
Could’ve been ripped straight from Paul Westerberg’s notebook.

The Men “Dreamer” (We Are the Men)
What you’d imagine to be playing anytime a parent pounds on their teen’s bedroom door and yells, “Turn it down!”

The Radio Dept. “Committed to the Cause” (Labrador)
A slinky statement of a song with hints of Prefab Sprout and St. Etienne.

Parquet Courts “Steady on My Mind” (Rough Trade)
Mmmn, Velvet-y.

Grandaddy “A Lost Machine” (Sony)
Man, this album can’t come soon enough…

James Blake “Love Me in Whatever Way” (Polydor)
That laugh track makes this even more heartbreaking than your average James Blake song.

ot to, not to w/ Noah Smith “Regretta I” (Other People)
Listen very closely.

The xx “On Hold” (Young Turks)
I know their 15 minutes of fame should be long gone, but that Hall & Oates sample…

Sonny & the Sunsets “Needs” (Polyvinyl)
The album where Sonny fell in love with a drum machine and made some goofy babies like this one.

Sunflower Bean “I Was Home” (Fat Possum)
Critics fawned over their debut but I found most of the album kinda boring. That said, this single is some transcendent psych rock amazingness.

Terry Malts “Used to Be” (Slumberland)
Terry Malts has been to me in the early 20-teens what The Wedding Present was to me in the early 1990s – completely durable and indispensible.

The Intended “Don’t Wait Too Long” (In the Red)
Rollicking goodness from Detroit’s garage (or basement, as the case may be) scene.

Leonard Cohen “It Seemed the Better Way” (Sony)
I’m a man of faith but after a year like this one, I get it. I really do.

David Bowie “Lazarus” (ISO/Columbia)
As my grandmother was bedridden and dying of cancer she’d ask my mom to open the curtains so she could watch the birds in the tree outside her window. When I first heard the bluebird line, I crumbled into a sobbing mess. Bowie gave until the very end…ain’t that just like him?

Blktop Project

I’ve been a fan of Tommy Guerrero since I was 13 years old, 1987 – the year I picked up on skateboarding. The Bones Brigade were in their prime and Guerrero was my favorite skateboarder. During that year my friends and I watched The Search For Animal Chin at least 100 times. His flaming dagger deck was one of my very first rides.

Flash forward to 2004 when I was reintroduced to Tommy Guerrero as a musician on this very site in a post by site founder Sean. Now, 12 years later Tommy is still at it with his new band BLKTOP PROJECT featuring Josh Lippi and fellow skaters Ray Barbee, Chuck Treece and Matt Rodriguez.

Recorded live over two days, their new album, Concrete Jungle is a loose, grooved-out, rocker of a record with a great jam session feel to it. Check the stream of “A New Line” below for a taste. It’s a real rump shaker.

Concrete Jungle is out today through Guerrero’s own Too Good records and available to buy from his Bandcamp page.

jinsang

California beat maker jinsang combines jazz cuts over chilled out beats to create some killer, smooth, grooved-out tracks. His latest release, solitude., is 26 tracks of pure groove. The more I listen to it the higher it jumps up my favorite releases of 2016 list.

His entire catalog is available to buy on his Bandcamp page for only a measly $7 bucks! Trust me that’s $7 bucks well spent my friends. Below are a few tracks from solitude. and a new one he just put up on his Soundcloud page. Check them out, then go get your hands on some of his music. Enjoy.

 

Greg Ashley

Former Gris Gris singer, Greg Ashley’s new album (and first with Trouble In MindA Generation of Slaves is a smooth slab of lo-fi goodness. Mixing jazz and folk with hints of country to create 9 songs that you will find yourself revisiting over and over again.

The male/female vocals and honky-tonk piano on “Misery Again” (below) combine to make it one of the best tracks on the album. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. A Generation of Slaves is out now and available from Trouble In Mind. I suggest you get your hands on a copy as soon as you can.

Greg Ashley – Misery Again from Another Generation of Slaves (2014)

Jesse Futerman


For years music critics have loved to handicap grown-folk-music-performed-by-young-folk. It’s as though the younger a musician is, the more forgiving we should be of their songwriting (remember Ben Lee?). With that, I won’t even mention Jesse Futerman’s age because his deep, soulful music speaks for itself. The Toronto-based producer has been building a following through his SoundCloud mixes and finally pulled together an EP you can download for free here. I can’t tell if it’s the seasoned groove or the painfully short playing time of these tracks that leaves me yearning for more. Either way, I hope to hear from Jesse again soon.

Driva’man from Super Basement (2011)

jessefuterman.bandcamp.com
soundcloud.com/jessefuterman
www.juslikemusicrecords.com/

Galactic

Now this is my cup of tea, or more appropriate, my cup of soup. An album named after food. Ya-ka-may is a type of New Orlean’s street food: a noodle soup typically made with shrimp, chicken, roast beef, and almost always a hard boiled egg. Galactic reproduces the multi-ethnic spirit of ya-ka-may on record. The band pulled in a not so disparate mix of artists and sounds from the New Orlean’s music scene into one steaming hot platter of bouncing funk. Everyone from such legends as Allen Touissant (The Meters) and the Rebirth Brass Band and up-and-comers Trombone Shorty and John Boutté plunk down their unique sound into Galactic’s oh so tasty stew. The band generously offers up three tracks from the album, so listen in and if you dig it, expand your palate and buy it.

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Jaga Jazzist

The name suggests a one-person show, a jazzist of the Jaga persuasion, whatever that might be, but in fact, this is a nine piece band from Norway formed 15 years ago by a then 14-year old, Lars Horntveth. The name also implies perhaps a certain musical sound, but unlike say, The Jazz Butcher, Jaga Jazzist is quite jazzy. Jazzy’s the wrong word though because that makes it sound as if the band uses jazz flourishes and this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Jaga Jazzist is jazz. Jazz purists might disagree, but shame on them. Jaga Jazzist explores the boundaries of what jazz is and what jazz can be. More than that, Jaga Jazzist explores the boundaries of what music can be.

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Bonobo

It’s been almost four years since Bonobo (aka Simon Green) dropped a full-length on our ears, so pardon me if I get all giddy on you with this post. Bonobo gets heavy rotation in my mixes and iPod for their timeless, jazzy goodness. Like the right jacket, his music can class up any occasion. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been craving some new material. Two tracks from the forthcoming Black Sands album have been released so far, both featuring sultry guest vocalist Andreya Triana (whose pipes graced Flying Lotus’s Reset EP) and both have me salivating for more. If these two flavors any indication, we’ll see some interesting range from our man come the end of March.

Below you’ll find the video for “The Keeper” and both an album edit and a bumpin’ Warrior One remix of “Eyesdown” for your downloading pleasure.

Speaking of remixes, Bonobo is flipping the remix contest script and offering his remix talents to the song that gets the most votes. Get in on Bonobo’s own version of March Madness at bonobomusic.co.uk/remixcompetition (may the best bot, er…artist, win).

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