Houston, Texas trio Khruangbin (for the phonetically challenged like me, it’s pronounced KRUNG-BIN) came together from a common love of 60’s, 70’s and 80’s Thai funk and soul music (you can listen to their “Essential Thai Funk Mixtape” here). Their new album Con Todo El Mundo is a smoking hot, groove-filled slab of funk, psych and soul. Give “Maria También” a spin below for a sample – you will not be sorry. Con Todo El Mundo is out now via Dead Oceans and I can not recommend it enough. Enjoy.
It all started with hearing Thundercat’s ‘Friend Zone’ for the first time. I immediately started thinking about what other songs would go with it in a mix – and it grew from there – 25 tracks of toe tapping groove. Thanks for inspiring this mix, Thundercat!
1. Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground (London, 1974)
2. Thundercat – Friend Zone
3. Al Green – Because
4. Natural Child – Benny’s Here
5. Once And Future Band – Rolando
6. BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – Ray Gun (feat. DOOM)
7. Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings – Tell Me
8. Carla Thomas – Let Me Be Good To You
9. Lazy Salon – Sea Isle Ice
10. RUMTUM – Lost Ark
11. Gap Dream – Shine Your Light
12. Lazy Knuckles – Polygot
13. Gonjasufi – Ancestors
14. Adrian Younge – La Ballade
15. Blood Orange – Best To You
16. Bad Juju – Up In The Lab
17. Flying Lotus – Zodiac Shit
18. The Meters – You’ve Got To Change (You Got To Reform)
19. Booker T. & The M.G.’s – Chicken Pox
20. The Mar-Keys – Last Night
21. The Courtneys – Mars Attacks (Bobby Draino Remix)
22. Moderat – Reminder
23. Lasso – FkdLtd
24. Madvillain – Heat Niner
25. Dibia$e – Just The Way
Stephen Bruner a/k/a Thundercat is a musical omnivore. In interviews he’ll cite Manhattan Transfer, Mahavishnu Orchestra, John Coltrane, and video game music as influences – all in the same sentence. He’s played with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Suicidal Tendencies. And he’s already appeared on as many albums as he years old (33!). Such a broad palette can be a blessing or a curse. Fortunately, Thundercat has managed to channel his wandering mind and expansive talent into another uniquely cohesive – and funky – package with his latest, Drunk.
Whether the topic matter is mortality, race relations, or how freakin’ cool Tokyo or his pet cat is, Thundercat brings a levity and sincerity to the party that would be hard for most people to balance. If I told you he accomplishes this with a 6-string bass and entrancing falsetto as his primary weapons, it’d be even harder to believe.
Drunk is tight, so tight, almost efficient: 22 joints and not one clocks over 4 minutes long. In contrast to Thundercat’s live shows, where songs gets blown out into transcendent (sometimes frenetic) jam sessions, each studio track packs a concentrated punch. “Bus in the Streets” argues for unplugging from technology over a snappy Steely Dan-esque synth line. “Walk on By” is a yearning R&B burner with Kendrick Lamar guesting with a potent dose of street poetry. “Them Changes” – a bringback from his 2015 EP – showcases the funkiest bassline this side of Larry Graham. Then there’s the two Big Singles: “Show You the Way” featuring Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins, with no irony whatsoever, and “Friend Zone” which lit the place up when I saw Thundercat perform it a couple weeks back and has already reserved a spot on most Best of 2017 lists.
Speaking of his live show, it was a melting pot of jazzbos, hip-hop heads, skaters, Pitchfork disciples, and drum circle types – a testament to Thundercat’s broad appeal. You can love him for his virtuosity, his groove, his unabashed nerdiness… or maybe you’ll find some other reason. I’ll leave that to you and Thundercat.
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.
(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.
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)
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?
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.
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.
Former Gris Gris singer, Greg Ashley’s new album (and first with Trouble In Mind) A 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)
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)
A smooth Christmas rebirth.